Puppet Mischief is New York-based saxophonist John Ellis’ sixth release as a leader and second with his New Orleans-based Double Wide band, which includes organist Brian Coogan, sousaphonist Matt Perrine and drummer Jason Marsalis. It’s an intriguing, often infectious nine-track release that mixes the brass-band and uniquely syncopated sounds of the Big Easy with carefully composed music and complex horn arrangements more typically associated with the Big Apple. Also, as Ellis notes, the tunes takes their cues from “carnivals, state fairs, children laughing, clowns and dancing.”
Recorded in New Orleans and released in late February, Puppet Mischief is Ellis’ first outing on the ObliqSound imprint. It arrives on the heels of a busy and artistically satisfying 2009 for the 35-year-old saxophonist. During that 12-month stretch, Ellis performed with a Sting, Mos Def and Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa; toured Europe with the John Patitucci Trio; and debuted “The Ice Siren,” Ellis’ hour-long through-composed narrative composition for string quartet, tuba, percussion, guitar, vibes, winds and two singers. The piece, a collaborative effort with playwright Andy Bragen, debuted at Manhattan’s Jazz Gallery in May. (On June 18, Ellis and his cohorts will again stage “The Ice Siren” at the Jazz Gallery as part of the Care Fusion George Wein Summer Festival.)
Certainly Ellis is making his mark in New York these days. But as Puppet Mischief makes abundantly clear, a big part of the saxophonist’s heart will always lie in the rich culture and singularly funky sounds of New Orleans.
For more information on John Ellis, go to www.johnaxsonellis.com.