So many jazz musicians have been heralded as the next "big thing" since the 80s it's hard to keep track. It can cause one, after a while, to cast a sideways glance at the next pronouncement. But when a saxophonist creeps up on you with a lively, burnished tone and a swagger begat from the likes of Dexter' maybe it's time not to ask why, but to say why not.
Dave Ellis isn't a "young lion" at 35, but he's not a name that's out there in the jazz world. He's enough of a tenor saxophonist that Orrin Keepnews took on the task of producing his first major-label CD, State of Mind released April 22 on Fantasy's Milestones label. Listen to it and ask why he shouldn't be put in the category with some of the other fine players on the scene. His voice on the instrument is still developing, he admits, but he speaks the right language; the lingo of Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson and others he has been influenced by.