Katie Ernst has been described by the Chicago Tribune as "a versatile young bassist who plays in far-flung bands and sings with uncommon delicacy and authenticity." Her recent compositions are inspired by the poetry of American writer Dorothy Parker. Her complete Dorothy Parker project Little Words was released in 2015, and is currently available on BandCamp.
As both a bassist and vocalist, Katie has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, among others. The Chicago Reader identified her as "one of the brightest lights on Chicago’s jazz scene, and she isn’t close to hitting her creative ceiling."
Katie was invited to represent the U.S. in the 2018 EuroRadio Jazz Orchestra, a commissioned big band hosted in Riga, Latvia. Katie was one of 24 young artist-composers selected for the 2013 and 2014 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program, an international jazz residency program at the Kennedy Center under the direction of pianist and MacArthur Fellow Jason Moran. She performed at the Chicago Symphony Center as part of Jason Moran’s Looks of a Lot premiere, which also featured Nasheet Waits, Tarus Mateen, Ken Vandermark, Theaster Gates, and Kenwood Academy Jazz Band.
Katie is an active bandleader and side-woman in Chicago. She recently established a duo project with clarinetist James Falzone called 'Wayfaring.' The duo was featured at the 2016 Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and their debut album I Move, You Move is available on the Allos Documents label. Katie composes and performs with the band TWIN TALK, alongside co-leaders Dustin Laurenzi (saxophone) and Andrew Green (drums). Twin Talk's self-titled sophomore album is out now on ears&eyes Records. Their third studio album Weaver has received much critical acclaim, and the group was featured at the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival.
Katie holds a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media and a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. She serves as the jazz ensemble director at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.
"The album [Little Words] is a concise set that winningly blends jazz, pop and classical elements, showcasing Ernst’s buttery alto and her creative way with melody."—John Frederick Moore, Jazziz Magazine
"Anyone who has attended Chicago jazz performances during the past couple of years probably has noticed her: a versatile young bassist who plays in far-flung bands and sings with uncommon delicacy and authenticity." —Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
"Ernst sings with a tenderness and unpretentiousness that focus attention on the lyrics, not on the singer, a rare quality among contemporary jazz vocalists." —Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
"...one of the brightest lights on Chicago’s jazz scene" —Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
"The bassist, singer and composer makes music with a soft, tumbling momentum, somewhere between literate indie pop and low-lit vocal jazz." —Giovanni Russonello, CapitolBop (WASHINGTON, DC)
Chicago Jazz Festival Preview of TWIN TALK. "...the focal point of this exciting young Chicago trio is bassist Katie Ernst. On the group's self-released debut, Sightline, she not only exhibits excellent time but also reliably supplies melodic elaboration with her woody, muscular lines. She also sings occasionally, displaying the nuance and presence of a seasoned vocalist. —Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
"Looks of a Lot, the SCP Jazz commission by pianist Jason Moran and visual artist Theaster Gates featuring the Kenwood Academy Jazz Band, received a triumphant world premiere May 30 at Symphony Center. Along with collaborators saxophonist Ken Vandermark, bassist/vocalist Katie Ernst and his group the Bandwagon, Mason and his crew created an unforgettable evening of music and community awareness." —CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Sounds & Stories