Sep 23, 2011
Originally from North Carolina, John Ellis has been turning heads since his time in New Orleans as an active member of Ellis Marsalis' band in the mid-nineties. A finalist at the 2002 Thelonius Monk International Saxophone competition, John has gone on to record six albums and has played and toured with musicians such as John Scofield, Norah Jones, Jason Marsalis, George Garzone, Reggie Workman, and Joe Chambers. John's band called Double-Wide, which features the unusual combination of saxophone, drums, organ, and sousaphone, released a critically praised CD, Puppet Mischief (dig the “Sesame Street Meets Brooklyn Hipster” cover) in February 2010 on ObliqSound and features the core band of Jason Marsalis, Brian Coogan, and Matt Perrine.
If you don’t know Ellis as a band leader, you probably are familiar with his playing as a member of Charlie Hunter’s bands for a number of years. That’s Ellis featured on the Songs from the Analog Playground and Right Now Move CDs.
John is one of the headliners at the first Northampton Jazz Festival on October 1, 2011, and will lead a quintet elevated by two sidemen who are leaders in their own right – keyboardist Aaron Goldberg and guitarist Mike Moreno. I spoke with John about his New Orleans roots, his time with Hunter, and his plans to re-stage – and perhaps record - a large-scale work in 2012 Musical selections with the conversation include:
John Ellis – “Lonnie” from By a Thread. A good indication of the kind of band that Ellis will bring to Northampton is featured on this cut - Ellis on sax; Aaron Goldberg on Fender Rhodes piano; Mike Moreno on guitar; Reuben Rogers on bass; and Terreon Gully on drums.
John Ellis & Double-Wide – “Bovine Boogaloo” from Puppet Mischief. This is a bonus track from the 2010 CD that made Ellis a jazz-funk attraction. Double Wide is Ellis on sax, Jason Marsalis on drums, Brian Coogan on organ and Matt Perrine on sousaphone. Guesting are Gregoir Maret on chromatic harmonica and Alan Ferber on trombone.
Charlie Hunter Trio - “Moore’s Alphabet” from an unreleased recording made at Forward Hall on May 22, 2004. This Ellis original ended Hunter’s set with a tribute to New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore. Check www.archive.org for the whole show, which featured Charlie Hunter on 8 string guitar, Ellis on tenor sax and bass clarinet and Derek Phillips on drums.
Mike Moreno – “Money“ from Jazz Side of the Moon. Moreno will surely be well-known in short time, serving as a leader on two CDs and recording with the likes of Aaron Parks, Q-Tip, Kendrick Scott and Robert Glaspar. The band for this ambitious re-imagining of the Pink Floyd classic is Moreno on guitars, Sam Yahel on organ, Seamus Blake on sax, and Ari Hoenig on drums.
John Ellis – “Sippin’ Cider” from One Foot in the Swamp. An old standard becomes a hot jazz number in the hands of Ellis and topnotch band mates Nicholas Payton on trumpet; Maret on chromatic harmonica; John Scofield on guitar; Goldberg on keyboards; Marsalis on drums; and Roland Guerin on bass.