Episode 15: John Ellis

Saxophonist John Eliis grew up in North Carolina, in a family that valued the arts and creativity, but also surrounded by what he refers to as “country people”. He attended high school and part of college at an arts academy in North Carolina before moving to New Orleans, and eventually settling in New York city, about 15 years ago.

He works regularly as a sideman with other jazz artists including Dr. Lonnie Smith, Miguel Zenon, and Darcie James-Argue. He’s the kind of musician who brings real energy and enthusiasm to a project, and also a real sense of his own personal identity

John has also recorded a number of albums under his own name, and with a project he has called “Double Wide”. His most recent solo project, called MOBRO, is a long form narrative collaboration with playwright Andy Bragen, was released earlier this year.

Ellis returns again and again to the importance of where he came from, and how the people he saw growing up influenced his values as an artists. He also discusses the advantage of being isolated when he was learning to play, and the importance self study in jazz. In many ways, it seems that being somewhat isolated and finding jazz very much on his own is what helped him to find his own sound and musical voice.