Over the past several years, tenor saxophonist John Ellis has developed a powerfully funky style. More recently, he has stretched out to bass clarinet and ocarina, releasing two well-received sessions as a leader and maintaining his integral part in guitarist Charlie Hunter's well-known trio. On By a Thread Ellis has brought together a quintet that delivers the funk, but also shines on multifaceted compositions which define a more mature sound. These beautifully melodic pieces serve as springboards to more adventurous climes.
Pianist Aaron Goldberg continues his association with Ellis. Newcomer guitarist Mike Moreno is able to adapt easily to the changing moods; in the process he showcases a touch that exquisitely adds to the rhythm section or strongly leads into uncharted waters. Ellis could not have chosen a better rhythm session: drummer Terreon "Tank Gully brings that same muscle he displays with bassist Christian McBride, as well as a marked percussive musicality that meshes wonderfully with bassist Reuben Rogers.
For By a Thread Ellis has added soprano sax to his already varied sonic palette, and the opening "Ferris Wheel is a quickly turning, wild aural ride of precisely played soprano. This is necessarily followed by the breath-catching rhythmically delicious "Tall Drink of Water and the smooth melodic flow of "Little Giggles." An ancient Eastern feel permeates the ocarina/guitar opening to "Old Man before the band turns the elderly gentleman on to a funky groove; and "Wishing Well features Moreno and Goldberg soloing in various directions, augmented by bass clarinet.
"Lonnie, with Goldberg on Rhodes, combined with some juicy tenor and down-home rhythms, would certainly please its namesake; the bluesy "Umpty Eleven is a forum for Ellis' wide range and Moreno's agility against a pleasing backdrop. "Swirl does just that, thanks to Goldberg's hypnotic lines, until the funkster "Moore's Alphabet," a paean to New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore, forcefully closes things out on the strong shoulders of Gully and Rogers.
Track Listing: Ferris Wheel; Tall Drink of Water; Little Giggles; Old Man; Wishing Well; Lonnie; Umpty Eleven; Swirl; Moore's Alphabet.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.