The gifted, versatile saxophonist/clarinetist/composer John Ellis occupies an imaginary (and extremely imaginative) space directly between the celebratory, welcoming spirit of New Orleans and the edgy, frantic streets of New York City. Both as the leader of his own eclectic projects and as an in-demand sideman for a mind-boggling number and variety of artists, Ellis expresses a keen intellect and easy virtuosity while maintaining a mischievous gleam in his eye and never letting tongue stray far from cheek.
That combination is best showcased in Ellis’ eccentric combo Double-Wide, which recently released its third album, Charm, on Ellis’ own Parade Light Records. Ellis also leads his own quintet of A-list players, whose most recent release was the 2012 Criss Cross release It’s You I Like featuring songs by singer-songwriter Elliott Smith and legendary kids’ TV host Mr. Rogers. An ambitious composer as well as an agile musician, Ellis in recent years has composed three large-scale narrative pieces commissioned by The Jazz Gallery in collaboration with playwright Andy Bragen (“Dreamscapes”, “The Ice Siren”, and “MOBRO”).
The second place winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition in 2002, Ellis has also established himself as one of New York’s premier tenor saxophonists, working with artists as diverse as John Patitucci, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Miguel Zenón, Darcy James Argue, Charlie Hunter, and Sting. His discography lists more than 100 album credits as a sideman, with more than a dozen released in 2014 alone.