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Interview:
Ellis Hall -- soul man with the symphony
 

By GARY GRAFF
21st Century Media/Digital First Media, @GraffonMu

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You seldom find a single singer who can boast of being a Ray Charles protege, the voice of Tower of Power and a Kenny G hit, and a California Raisin. Ellis Hall is all of the above, however -- and he's just as comfortable singing with a full orchestra, as he will this weekend with the Detroit Symphony.

"It's a soul celebration," gushes Hall, 62, blind since a wrestling accident as a teenager before being signed as an artist to Charles' Crossover Records label. His Ellis Hall Is Ray Charles show features not only Charles' music but a full array of R&B, with plenty of Motown in the mix. "Any place we can bring the soul to folks, it's a good thing. I want to keep the soul alive. I listen to all genres of music and can bring the truth, thank you Lord, out of all of them."

Hall says Charles was instrumental in teaching him to sing with symphonies -- "That's one of the many gifts he gave me," Hall notes -- and continuing to do that allows him to continue to pay tribute to his mentor.

"Working the last few years of his life with him, we had some great experiences," remembers Hall, who's releasing a holiday album "Jingle All the Way," and a Christmas EP this month. "I had the honor to call him Pop Ray. When he wasn't telling unbelievable stories we were making music. He was a tough taskmaster, but as long as he felt you brought your A game he cut you some slack.

"He used to say to me, 'Boy, you got so much music in you it's scary.' We'd jam on all sorts of stuff. I'd jam on bass or whatever. We never recorded our jams together, but it was a musical synergy that was unstoppable, and I still feel it and honor it whenever I get up there to perform."

Ellis Hall performs with the DSO Principal Pops conducted by Jeff Tyzik at 10:45 and 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22-23, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, at Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave. Tickets are $19-$105. Call 313-576-5111 or visit www.dso.org.

Web Site: www.dso.org

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