Niko Ellison
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Niko Ellison

Band R&B Soul


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"The art of soul singing is far from dead"

31-year-old Nikko Ellison. The Fairfield vocalist, who regularly performs as a member of the United States Air Force Band's rock and jazz ensembles, effortlessly moved between a soaring falsetto and a ringing lower tenor during a set of songs associated with Usher, Stevie Wonder, Robin Thicke, and Brian McKnight, as well as one of his own. Spine-chilling melismata and Sam Cooke–like yodels were employed in service of the material, never ostentatiously, and Ellison worked the crowd like a pro, falling on his knees at one point to croon to a group of women at a front table. It was a most auspicious club debut. (Lee Hildebrand) - SF Bay Guardian(Lee Hildebrand)

"Oakland showcase opening doors for R&B acts"

By Gail Mitchell

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Kerry and Gian Fiero are enablers. And proud of it.

This Bay Area, Calif.-based husband-and-wife team is pushing live R&B in a supper club setting. The Fieros' Friday evening show -- billed as the Strive for More Music Showcase -- provides a much-needed platform for artist development, especially for those newcomers who don't know much beyond setting up a page on the Internet.

"Gian and I kept meeting artists who didn't have enough material or didn't have the resources to get a band," Kerry said. "An artist's live show is what he or she always owns, no matter what. So we thought, 'Why not put together a showcase?"'

So they drew on their own wealth of resources. Kerry operates artist management firm Strive Management in Berkeley, Calif. Gian represents producers and teaches music publicity and music career options at San Francisco State. Thanks to Kerry's booking of R&B artists (Musiq Soulchild, indie faves Anthony David and Julie Dexter) on Thursday nights at Maxwell's Lounge, the Oakland club became a logical choice as the host venue.

Located in downtown Oakland, Maxwell's Lounge seats 250 or can accommodate 375 standing. The venue offers a fusion of Caribbean and Southern food as well as cocktails; at the showcases, a happy hour begins at 5 p.m., and the doors stay open until 2 a.m.

The move to secure Maxwell's was driven by two goals: to further revitalize the city's nightlife and to support the local R&B scene -- which gave birth to such R&B/hip-hop acts as Tony! Toni! Tone! and Keyshia Cole.

"Oakland has a bad reputation, so people go to San Francisco to listen to music," Kerry said. "Although there are some nice jazz and hip-hop venues here, there aren't an abundance of R&B clubs. It was important to have a venue that appeals to everybody, whether you're 18 or 55."

Launched in January, the Strive for More Music Showcase features seven vocalists. Younger teen artists ages 12-17 -- coming out of the Oakland School for the Arts or the young musicians program at Cal State Berkeley -- are slotted first. They're followed by several "headliners": more seasoned songwriter/performers on the Fieros' "who's next" radar.

To help the acts with their learning curve, the Fieros tapped Los Angeles producer Cori Jacobs (Beyonce, Lauryn Hill, the Temptations) to be music director for the showcases. He and an accompanying band do one rehearsal the night before and a soundcheck the day of the performance.

Among the artists who have struck a chord with the audience of friends, family, radio DJs, local press and music professionals are 12-year-old Kehlani Parrish (who has since been paired with a producer in Los Angeles to do some recording) and Niko Ellison (who tours with the Air Force Band).

The next showcase, on October 26, will close the program's first season. Down the line, Kerry hopes to spin off separate hip-hop and rock Strive components.

Billboard - Billboard Magazine


Still working on that hot first release.



"Spine-chilling melismata and Sam Cooke–like yodels were employed in service of the material, never ostentatiously, and (Niko) Ellison worked the crowd like a pro, falling on his knees at one point to croon to a group of women at a front table."
~Lee Hildebrand, SF Guardian

Ronicle "Niko" Ellison is a singer/songwriter/vocal arranger/producer who grew up in a musical household and was influenced by his father, Tommy Ellison, a member of the Platters in the 70's & early 80's. Niko's expansive knowledge of music in multiple genres and his talent for emulating the vocal styles of prominent artists earned him a spot in the U.S. Air Force Band(AFB) where he travels all over the country entertaining civilians, dignitaries, and celebrities. As a company Laniko Music has song placements in All My Children, Boston Public, and Showtime's Soul Food in addition to collaborations with songwriters from the Underdogs production team.