John Ellis and Double-Wide: Dance Like There's No Tomorrow (2008)
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That's the low roar of a sousaphonecourtesy of New Orleans' Matt Perrineyou hear on the opening notes of "All Up in the Aisles," the first tune on Brooklyn-based saxophonist John Ellis' soulful Dance Like There's No Tomorrow. A North Carolina preacher's son who spent his formative musical years in the Crescent City before moving up north, Ellis remains a devotee of the New Orleans sound, although he and his band Double-Wide put a decidedly New York twist on it here.
With Perrine holding down the bottom on the unwieldy but powerful instrument, Gary Versace providing some deep church grooves on organ, Jason Marsalis ably manning the drums, plus Ellis' own expressive tenor sax, the group serves up an eclectic mix of modernist jazz that's both danceable and challenging. "Zydeco Clowns on the Lam," for example, with Versace doubling on accordion, is a lighthearted romp that deconstructs and reconfigures familiar bayou beats while "Trash Bash" offers an updated take on the New Orleans brass band tradition. Other highlights include the carnival-esque "Three-Legged Tango in Jackson Square" and the title cut, a no-holds-barred soul-jazz workout in the tradition of great tenor sax-organ pairings like Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine.
While most of the music here has a boisterous edge (it's inspired by the land of "Laissez le bon temps roulez," after all) there are some poignant moments too, like "I Miss You Molly," Ellis' heartfelt tribute to the late Southern writer Molly Ivins and the evocatively titled ballad "Tattooed Teen Dances with Grandma."
Track Listing: All Up In The Aisles; Trash Bash; Dream And Mosh; I Miss You Molly; Three-Legged Tango In Jackson Square; Tattooed Teen Waltzes With Grandma; Zydeco Clowns On The Lam; Prom Song; Dance Like There's No Tomorrow.
Personnel: John Ellis: tenor saxophone; Matt Perrine: sousaphone; Gary Versace: Hammond organ: accordion; Jason Marsalis: drums.
Record Label: Hyena Records