Through the course of more than a half dozen albums under his own name, increasingly less traditional with each successive release including Dance Like there's No Tomorrow (Hyena, 2008) Puppet Mischief (Oblique Sound, 2010), saxophonist/composer John Ellis has developed and refined his own sound, particularly through his continued work with his band Double Wide. Charm further distinguishes the unit and it isn't just the unusual instrumental alignment of five-piece ensemble, operating without a bassist that sets these musicians apart: their playful camaraderie resonates deeply through their musicianship,
In that sense, this band's music is a logical extension of John Ellis' collaboration with Charlie Hunter circa Right Now Move (Ropeadope, 2003) and Friends Seen and Unseen (Ropeadope, 2004), idiosyncratic modern jazz that pays further dividends of originality through its self-composed songs. "Horse Won't Trot," is just one track ingeniously arranged to suit a lineup in which sousaphonist Matt Perrine fulfills the function of maintaining the bottom. Nevertheless, John Ellis and Doublewide aren't quirky to a fault; rather they're accessible in a way that compels close, repeated listening.
Including the estimable drummer and bandleader Jason Marsalis, the quintet even manages to sound absolutely lush before this album's over, not inappropriately, on a track titled "Better Angels," where all the melody lines coalesce over a fluid thick rhythm pattern. John Ellis' generosity of spirit as a band leader allows him to step in and out of the solo spotlight to allow the rest of his band to strut their respective stuff: he doesn't take a solo of any great duration til track seven "Snake Handler,"
There's a quiet abandon in this playing, the band shuffling along ever so casually on "High and Mighty" for instance, in a way that furthers a sense of play in even greater evidence in the tongue-in-cheek "Charm Is Nearly Always Sinister," Yet the truly distinguishing factor here is the way the individual players, especially keyboardist Gary Versace, relish their participation; no one remains too far in the background, as if none can bear to be too far from the thick of things. Charm has a similar effect on a listener.
Booker; High And Mighty; Horse Won't Trot; Charm Is Nearly Always Sinister; Old Hotel; International Tuba Day; Snake Handler; Better Angels; Barbed Wire Britches; Yearn.
John Ellis: tenor saxophone,clarinet; Alan Ferber: trombone; Gary Versace: organ,accordion, piano; Matt Perrine: sousaphone;
Jason Marsalis: drums, cymbals.