Saxophonist John Ellis is slowly but surely distinguishing himself as a notably singular figure in contemporary jazz. Establishing a firm foundation for himself as a tenured accompanist to 7-string guitarist Charlie Hunter, the North Carolina native and current resident of Brooklyn embarked on his solo career in authoritative style with One Foot in the Swamp (Hyena, 2005), and then conceived the ingenious Double Wide ensemble, the unusual lineup of which may not have wholly defined itself on its debut, but crystallizes completely on this follow-up.
Puppet Mischief is, in line with its humorous title, an absolutely delightful album. Much of ...read more
This second outing by John Ellis & Double Wide, the versatile saxophonist/bass clarinetist's extraordinary New Orleans-based band, one ups the serious fun" mentality by inviting a pair of guests--harmonica master Gregoire Maret and multifaceted trombonist Alan Ferber--to augment the unusual quartet of sousaphonist Matt Perrine, drummer Jason Marsalis and newcomer Brian Coogan (replacing Gary Versace) on organ. The result is an even more flavorful gumbo that spices up the homegrown roots of the Crescent City with the savory sounds of the New York City jazz scene. Beginning with the brassy NOLA homage Okra & Tomatoes" and concluding with funereal This ...read more
Brooklyn-based saxophonist John Ellis is a player who, whenever he puts his horn in his mouth, makes it seem like retro-modern is the only show in town. His style is part classic soul and funk, part modern jam band groove and part freewheeling improvisation. He has a particular affinity with New Orleans roots music and also references non-American folk and popular styles. He has a hipster sense of humor and an itch to experiment. It's a spellbinding combination and is mixed to perfection on Puppet Mischief, Ellis' second album with Double-Wide.
Ellis made his first album as leader ...read more
Saxophonist John Ellis is a hybrid of New Orleans funk, New York modernity, Presbyterian sanctification and good ol' performing skills. He blends all those things together on his new record, Dance Like There's No Tomorrow (Hyena, 2008), which features saxophone, sousaphone, organ and drums.
Ellis celebrated the release of his new album with a two-night stand at the Jazz Standard in New York on May 13 and 14, 2008, participating in the following interview on May 14 just before taking the stage for the first set, where he spoke about getting the band together, the sousaphone, ...read more
That's the low roar of a sousaphone--courtesy of New Orleans' Matt Perrine--you 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 ...read more
The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which laid waste to much of New Orleans in August 2005, has inspired a clutch albums lauding the city and its people, and lambasting the colossal failure of the US government to pick up the pieces. Some of these tributes have been heartfelt; others have appeared opportunistic, going on cynical. Until now, the most eloquent and credible has probably been trumpeter Terence Blanchard's magnificent A Tale Of God's Will (Blue Note, 2007), subtitled A Requiem For Katrina," and featuring Blanchard's road band alongside the Northwest Sinfonia.
Blanchard's opus has now been joined by ...read more
Saxophonist John Ellis was known as one of the voices of the Charlie Hunter Trio, having toured with the eight-string guitarist in recent years. His searching sound can be heard on Hunter recordings like the recently released Copperopolis. Good years for Ellis, who was able to tour steadily and still work on building a solo career as one of the resourceful players on the scene.
But now appears to be the time for Ellis, 32, a country boy from a farm in Cameron, N.C., population about 200, to make a stronger statement for himself.
That's come ...read more