John Ehlis Ensemble: San Carlos (2002)
Guitarist Ehlis and his tight Ensemble cover a lot of territory on this release. Overall, my impression is often that of a post "Bitches Brew" Miles with a Latin flavor. This is not to say that the music here is a copy, but rather that it works in similar territory.
The sound is often thick and dense, like on "Sana De La Noche," which is propelled by twin drummers and percussion. Layered on top is a searing Mclaughlenesque guitar. The bass bubbles funkily as things move in and out of the mix. The rhythmic "D.C." is dedicated to the late Don Cherry. A guitar loop/arpeggio is set up with percussion and atmospheric guitar. The horn/guitar/voice melody floats on top. "Path Of Hope" features a repetitive acoustic guitar riff with a unison guitar/horn melody. Again, the Miles feeling is there, as you sense the music was more or less conducted in the studio out of a very open structure. Jon Birdsong delivers a beautiful muted cornet solo. "Thumbalina" has slide guitar over percussion and cornet. "The Whistler" is just that - a short track of whistling over an atmospheric background.
Even through the music is sometimes dark, there is an energy, a sense of joy that permeates it. You can tell that this is a working band and not just a studio project. Highly recommended.
Visit John Ehlis on the web at www.johnehlis.com .
Track Listing: Sana, Sana; Cosmic Soup; Excuintla; Flap Jacket; D.C.; Sana Manana; Sana De La Noche; Path of Hope; Thumbalina; The Whistler.
Personnel: John Ehlis, acoustic and electric guitar, mbira, ocarina, percussion; with David Lofton, Jon Birdsong, John Tchicai, Chuck Ehlis. Ray McNamara, Dave Mihaly, Horacio Altan & Denise Fraga.