As a sophomore in high school he began his serious study of music at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where his now famous brother, David Ellis, had studied a couple years earlier in the Fine Arts department. There, John apprenticed with the world-renowned saxophonist James Houlik, who is still one of his most important mentors. After four years at NCSA, John moved to New Orleans, hoping to begin a serious study of jazz. He spent one year at the University of New Orleans under the direction of legendary jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis, and soon after, John joined Mr.
Marsalis’s band, traveling to promote the record “Whistle Stop” and performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. His jazz education then took him out of the classroom and onto road, as John traveled to Singapore for three months to play with pianist Jeremy Montiero, who was opening a jazz club there. Soon after his return, John was chosen to be in one of seven duos to perform in the inaugural year of the Jazz Ambassadors program, sponsored by the USIA and The Kennedy Center. He traveled as a cultural ambassador to South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and Kenya with guitarist Todd Duke. John returned to New Orleans and began performing with his own group there, releasing his debut record entitled, “Language of Love” in 1996.
He was also selected that same year to be one of 13 semi-finalists in the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. Blown away by the level of the other saxophonists John met there, he decided to move to New York to continue his education. He attended the New School jazz program from ’97 through ’99, studying with George Garzone, Reggie Workman, and Joe Chambers among many others. Upon John’s graduation in ’99, he was immediately asked to return to New Orleans for a year to teach saxophone at Loyola University while Tony Dagradi was away on sabbatical.
He quickly reintegrated himself into the scene in New Orleans, playing and recording albums with the bands of both Jason Marsalis and Roland Guerin. Not wanting to stray to long from New York however, John returned shortly after the school year ended, and before the year was out he had begun playing and traveling with 8-string guitar wizard Charlie Hunter and with R&B sensation Bilal Oliver. He also released his next album, “Roots, Branches, and Leaves”, which explores the source of John’s musical identity through arrangements of folk songs sung to him in his childhood. It features Nicholas Payton, Jason Marsalis, Roland Guerin, Aaron Goldberg, and Bilal, and it was released on the Spanish label Fresh Sound / New Talent From December of 1999 to May of 2006, John traveled and recorded with several incarnations of Charlie Hunter’s groups, appearing on four of Charlie’s albums, “Songs From The Analog Playground”, “Right Now Move”, “Friends Seen And Unseen”, and “Copperopolis”.
Through Charlie’s tours and recordings John had the chance to work with a wide variety of musicians including Norah Jones, Mos Def, Theryl DeClouet, Kurt Elling, Steven Chopek, Chris Lovejoy, Jans Ingber, Dean Bowman, Curtis Fowlkes, Johnny Vidakovich, Terreon Gully, Gregoire Maret, Alan Ferber, Ron Miles, Josh Roseman, Sam Newsome, and Derrek Phillips. By the end of his time with Charlie, John was playing tenor saxophone, melodica, bass clarinet, and Wurlitzer in the band. He also made time to reenter the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition in 2002, where this time he finished in second place. In February of 2005 as John was ending his tenure with Charlie, he released his third album as a leader called “One Foot in the Swamp”. This record featured Nicholas Payton, John Scofield, Aaron Goldberg, Jason Marsalis, Roland Guerin, and Gregoire Maret, and it was his first nationally distributed record, appearing on the Hyena record label.
When John left Charlie’s band in May of ’06, his departure corresponded with his second release for Hyena called “By A Thread”, which featured Mike Moreno, Terreon Gully, Reuben Rogers, and Aaron Goldberg. Both records were met with critical acclaim, and John has been touring to support these projects for the last several years. Be on the lookout for John’s forthcoming release, “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow” which features Jason Marsalis, Gary Versace, and Matt Perrine. It should be out sometime in late 2007 or early 2008. One of the most exciting tenor saxophone players on the current jazz scene, the world is going to hear a great deal more from John Ellis. As both a composer and a musician, Ellis is part of a fresh vanguard of jazz players carrying the music forward to a new generation of jazz fans. A description of John Ellis, the guitarist and composer, goes as follows: 2009 DREAM DETECTIVES formed with German collage artist/film maker Moi.
Moser. Live film soundtrack improvisations. Creates CHANOYU RECORDS and releases WABI SABI 21© as handmade CDR and downloads on Amazon and iTunes Working on new Songstory with JUDGE SMITH. Writing and performing more one-man show material. Working on documentary soundtrack for film maker Luke Pretzlik. 2008. Commenced live performances of LOOPROVISATION one-man show.
Masterclasses in Europe and improvisation project with Mr Averell and Hugh Banton. Sessions for Judge Smith and MR AVERELL. SOUNDBEAM work with special needs students. Music workshop delivery on behalf of THE LUMA GROUP. Collaborations with MICHAEL WARD-BERGEMAN and SKITZBEATZ. 2007. More workshops for THE LUMA GROUP.
Album and CD for JUDGE SMITH. Working on new solo project. 2006. Private Guitar tuition, workshop development and delivery (GUITAR ACCESS ). Composer in Residence for KC Mind. Composed soundtrack for documentary "With Nature in Mind" March 2004.
Founded arts organisation, THE LUMA GROUP. Started work on ROOTWORKS project with American musician, Michael Ward-Bergeman. 2002. Started working with BARRIER BREAKERS, a charity that delivers "Creative Composition" course to young people in London. April 2000. Left THE STRANGLERS to work on Music & Arts based internet site. 1990-2000: Became permanent member of THE STRANGLERS. Extensive touring and recording. Released "Acrylic" compilation. Art Gallery series released by Voiceprint Records. Worked on JUDGE SMITH "Curly's Airships" song story. Released "Spic & Span" limited edition, hand made CD. 1980-1990: Started recording and touring with PETER HAMMILL. THE VIBRATORS reformed to tour and record. Released mini-album "Microgroove". Started writing instrumental electronic music for exhibitions of paintings.
Played 2nd guitar on THE STRANGLERS "10" tour. 1980: Stood in for Hugh Cornwell at Rainbow gig. 1979: Left THE VIBRATORS for solo career. Released "Babies in Jars" and "Hit Man". Formed music/dance group Rapid Eye Movement. Played in J.J.Burnel's Euroband. Joined PETER GABRIEL Band for "China" tour. 1976: Vibrators release "We Vibrate" on RAK. Release "Pogo Dancing" with Chris Spedding. 1974: Formed THE VIBRATORS. 1973: Tree surgeon. Started Graphic Design Degree course at Middlesex Polytechnic. 1972: Warehouseman. 1971: Film Librarian for British Film Institute. 1970: Foundation Course at Chelsea College of Art. Formed BAZOOKA JOE. Primary & Secondary Education in North London. Born: London 1952. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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