Funk and jazz icon Pee Wee Ellis has died at the age of 80

Very sad news that funk and jazz icon the saxophonist, bandleader, arranger and composer Pee Wee Ellis who made history with James Brown has died at the age of 80. More to follow. The news was posted on Pee Wee's official Facebook page earlier …

Published: 24 Sep 2021. Updated: 33 days.

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Very sad news that funk and jazz icon the saxophonist, bandleader, arranger and composer Pee Wee Ellis who made history with James Brown has died at the age of 80. More to follow. The news was posted on Pee Wee's official Facebook page earlier today.

Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis co-wrote and arranged for James Brown 'Cold Sweat' and 'Say It Loud-I’m Black and I’m Proud.' He was born in Bradenton, Florida on 21 April 1941 and in his teens moved to Rochester New York State and began gigging with Chuck Mangione, later studying with Sonny Rollins. He joined James Brown's band in 1967. One of his most popular compositions 'The Chicken,' on The Popcorn was later covered by Jaco Pastorius.

Ellis founded the band Gotham in 1972 and Pass the Butter was highly sought after by hip-hop artists later.

As an arranger and saxist for Van Morrison he achieved a lot of acclaim and in The J.B. Horns, the Pee Wee Ellis Assembly and tenure in Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion new generations of fans found him. This blog enjoyed him play on several occasions over the years, most memorably at the Subtone in Cheltenham, at the Rhythmic on Chapel Market in Islington interviewing him there briefly and most recently with the Jazz Heads at Ronnie Scott's. Such nights. Hearing him no matter how many times made you feel brand new. RIP

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Mark Kavuma and the Big Beat + guest George Kelly, Ninety One Living Room, Brick Lane

Opening the latest instalment of the Mark Kavuma and the Big Beat Ninety One Living Room residency with Kenny Dorham's 'Short Story' going back to Joe Henderson 1965 Blue Note album In 'n Out this was an evening of classic hard bop. I for one was …

Published: 23 Sep 2021. Updated: 24 days.

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Opening the latest instalment of the Mark Kavuma and the Big Beat Ninety One Living Room residency with Kenny Dorham's 'Short Story' going back to Joe Henderson 1965 Blue Note album In 'n Out this was an evening of classic hard bop. I for one was keen to hear Kavuma for the first time live after earlier this month digging a whole lot the swinging Freddie Hubbard-esque 'Eliud' from Arashi No Ato (''After The Storm'') released on the trumpeter's new label. The album itself came out last week and among the personnel the pianist everyone is talking about since the Londoner won BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year last year Deschanel Gordon was here with Kavuma who reminds me of giant of UK jazz piano Julian Joseph in terms of sheer power and the much missed McCoy Tyner for all the quartal harmony he does and the feeling he contributes.

Gordon is a brilliant comper and beyond this ability came into his own on Monk's 'Ask Me Now' ostensibly a feature for the bassist Ben Hazleton. Tenorist Mussinghi ''Songbird'' Brian Edwards played very well all night and I thoroughly enjoyed the rapport he has with Kavuma who is an imaginative leader. Chatting to Mark a few times during the evening he mentioned he goes way back with Songbird to his teens. Listen to 2019's 'The Songbird' as you read and you get a flavour of the characterful playing also heard tonight in quantity. In the second set there was a very nice guest spot by singer George Kelly excelling especially on a tasteful version of 'Skylark'. SG

Deschanel Gordon top left, Ben Hazleton, Mark Kavuma, Matt Fishwick and Mussinghi Brian Edwards. The Big Beat residency continues next week