Tenor saxophonist Dave Ellis has long been a key figure in the fertile Northern California jazz scene. His story is a tapestry woven from myriad musical adventures. It begins with his days as a ten-year-old musical prodigy and opens on a new chapter with State of Mind, his debut recording for Milestone, featuring a sterling jazz veteran cast of pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassists Peter Washington and Christian McBride, drummers Carl Allen and Lewis Nash, and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring.
Along the way, Ellis was named Best New Talent (along with Diana Krall) in the 1997 Jazziz magazine Readers Poll. He scooped up two 1999 California Music Awards—for Outstanding Jazz Album and Outstanding Jazz Artist in Northern California, and jazz critics hailed his mature saxophone style for its enveloping sound and emphatic attack (Bob Blumenthal, Atlantic Monthly) and its alternately earthy, probing, and lyrical sound (Mike Joyce, Washington Post). As legendary record producer Orrin Keepnews writes in his liner notes to the first new Ellis recording in five years, even on the shifting and difficult terrain of early 21st century jazz, a talent as formidable as his should and will be recognized.
Keepnews, who has worked with many of the all-time tenor greats, including Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, and John Coltrane, served as both producer and mentor for Ellis on State of Mind. What he has done for me in this period of my life, the encouragement and the affirmation he has given me, are the kinds of things I'll be talking about when I'm old, Ellis says. To have the experience of doing a record with Orrin Keepnews—in New York City, with these heavyweight hitters at the top of their craft—I just feel really fortunate.