About John Ellis
A versatile and imaginative saxophonist, John Ellis plays a forward-thinking brand of post-bop has mixed with such wide-ranging influences as New Orleans jazz, R&B, and funk, as well as classical and modern creative elements. Since his emergence in New York in the late '90s, Ellis has released a number of highly regarded albums, including 2002's Roots, Branches and Leaves, 2008's Dance Like There's No Tomorrow, and 2015's Charm; the latter of which featured his adventurous combo Double-Wide. Ellis has also collaborated on several large-scale theatrical works with playwright Andy Bragen, including 2014's environmentally conscious Mobro and the 2020 "jazz opera" The Ice Siren.
Born in 1974 in North Carolina, Ellis studied piano growing up and also played the clarinet. After high school, he spent time living in New Orleans where he studied with pianist Ellis Marsalis. It was while in New Orleans in 1996 that he released his debut album as leader, The Language of Love. From there, he relocated to New York City where he earned a degree in music from the New School. In 2002, he finished second in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Along with leading his own groups, Ellis has performed with an eclectic array of musicians including bassist John Patitucci, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, fellow saxophonist Miguel Zenón, pianist Helen Sung, the Holmes Brothers, Sting, and others. He was also a longtime member of guitarist Charlie Hunter's band.
Following his debut, Ellis has continued to release his own wide-ranging albums, including 2002's Roots, Branches and Leaves, 2005's One Foot in the Swamp, and 2006's By a Thread. In 2008, he released his first album with his Double-Wide ensemble, Dance Like There's No Tomorrow. A second Double-Wide release, Puppet Mischief, arrived in 2010. A quintet album, It's Like You, followed two years later, after which Ellis returned with Double-Wide for Charm, released on his own Parade Light Records.
Along with his solo work, Ellis has regularly collaborated with playwright Andy Bragen on a number of theatrical projects. The duo's first work, Dreamscapes, combined music and poetry and premiered at The Jazz Gallery in December 2007. Their second work, The Ice Siren, an hour-long chamber "jazz opera," premiered in May 2009. In 2011, they premiered a second work, the environmentally concerned Mobro, which found them drawing upon the infamous 1987 Mobro trash barge controversy. It was released on album in 2014. In 2020, Ellis and Bragen released a recorded version of The Ice Siren, featuring vocals by Miles Griffith and Gretchen Parlato. ~ Matt Collar
BORNApril 13, 1974