This has been a long time coming. Andy and I wrote this piece for The Jazz Gallery’s Large Ensemble Commissions Series 2008-2009. It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 10 years already. When Rio invited us back for the Gallery’s 20th anniversary programming in 2016, it seemed like a great opportunity to finally try and get the piece recorded. This has been a labor of love at every stage, and I’m very excited that we’re finally so close to being able to share it with you. On February 14th and 15th, we’ll celebrate the release of the album at The Jazz Gallery (where else?), and we’ll have CDs to share with you then. In the meantime here’s a little teaser.

“Isfahan” by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington

This is one of only two bass clarinet songs we recorded at this session. If it was easier to carry around, I’d have the bass clarinet at every gig. People seem to always love the sound, even when I’m feeling like I’m not playing it all that well. I think many people have never seen one, and so that’s part of it, as well. You’d be surprised how many people ask me if it’s an oboe. I started playing bass clarinet back in the Charlie Hunter band days, and he was nice enough to let me play it on gigs even though I really couldn’t play it very well at all back then. Yasushi takes a beautiful solo on this one, as well.

John Ellis – bass clarinet 
Yasushi Nakamura – bass 
Jason Marsalis – drums 

recorded and mixed at the Big Orange Sheep by Michael Perez-Cisneros 
as of yet, unmastered. 

Artwork by Aya Sekine (aya_loves_drawing on Instagram

“All Things Bright” by John Ellis

We basically came up with this arrangement of All The Things You Are in the studio. It’s altered enough that it seems to be worthy of a new title. I was experimenting with trying to find an anagram I liked, but I gave up and just went with “All Things Bright”, which somehow feels right. Although “Lottery Hush in Algae” is kind of weird and wonderful…

John Ellis – tenor saxophone 
Yasushi Nakamura – bass 
Jason Marsalis – drums 

recorded and mixed at the Big Orange Sheep by Michael Perez-Cisneros 
as of yet, unmastered. 

Artwork by Aya Sekine (aya_loves_drawing on Instagram

“Bushido” by John Ellis

This is another song that was just a meditation on a few chords, in this case all minor chords. There was no written melody, just 6 chords (or 5, one is repeated) and a form: 48 bars of 3/4, or 24 bars of 6/4. There were three tunes like this from the session, songs with only chords and structure, but with no pre-set melodies. This one was originally just titled #3. Aya, who did amazing artwork for this one, said it reminded her of samurai, which led to the title, “Bushido”. As always, thanks for listening.

John Ellis – tenor saxophone 
Yasushi Nakamura – bass 
Jason Marsalis – drums 

recorded and mixed at the Big Orange Sheep by Michael Perez-Cisneros 
as of yet, unmastered. 

Artwork by Aya Sekine (aya_loves_drawing on Instagram)

“Body And Soul” by Johnny Green

I studied Coleman Hawkins’ famous 1939 version of this song when I was a student at UNO many years ago. It’s been one of my favorite ballads to play ever since. Louis Armstrong was the first to record it in the year it was composed, 1930. So here we are, one year shy of this song’s 90th birthday. Never gets old.

John Ellis – bass clarinet 
Yasushi Nakamura – bass 
Jason Marsalis – drums 

Recorded and mixed by Michael Perez-Cisneros at The Big Orange Sheep. 

Artwork by Aya Sekine (aya_loves_drawing on Instagram)

“Ah Blues” by John Ellis

Here’s another one from the session with Yasushi and Jason. Just a regular old blues…in A Major.

John Ellis – saxophone 
Yasushi Nakamura – bass 
Jason Marsalis – drums 

Recorded and mixed by Michael Perez-Cisneros at The Big Orange Sheep. 

Artwork by Aya Sekine (aya_loves_drawing on Instagram)

“Ask Me Now” by Thelonious Monk

I’ve loved this tune for as long as I can remember. Yasushi and I played this one as a duo at the beginning of the day, just as a soundcheck. Enjoy!

John Ellis – saxophone
Yasushi Nakamura – bass

Recorded and mixed by Michael Perez-Cisneros at The Big Orange Sheep. As of yet, unmastered

“The Last Drop” by John Ellis

I made up a game for this session to try to write tunes with only chord changes, so in other words – no written melodies. I sketched out three of these the morning of the recording before I left for the studio. This one was originally just called, “Number One”. The idea was to try and figure out the right arrangement on the spot and also to improvise a melody. I’ve always loved these kinds of tunes with passing diminished chords. My old friend and frequent collaborator, Jason Marsalis, happened to be in town and just called to check in. Of course I had to ask him to be involved in this ongoing recording project I’ve been doing. I also called the great Yasushi Nakamura to play bass with us. Yasushi played in my trio when I toured in Japan in June of 2016, and we had a blast. As always, thanks for listening.

John Ellis – tenor saxophone
Jason Marsalis – drums
Yasushi Nakamura- bass

Recorded and mixed by Michael Perez-Cisneros at The Big Orange Sheep. As of yet, unmastered