Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Saxophonist, composer and arranger Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis was born on April 21, 1941, in Bradenton, Florida. His family moved to Lubbock, Texas in 1949, where he was given his nickname "Pee Wee". He gave his first public performance in 1954 at Dunbar Junior High School. In 1955 he moved with his family to Rochester, New York. While attending Madison High School he played professionally with jazz musicians like Ron Carter and Chuck Mangione. In 1967 he moved to New York City where he attended Manhattan School of Music and had regular lessons with Sonny Rollins. In 1960 he went back to Florida working as a bandleader, musical director and writer.

He was an important member of James Brown's band in the 1960s and appeared on many of Brown's most notable recordings. Ellis played with the James Brown Revue from 1965 to 1969. While with Brown he arranged and co-wrote hits like "Cold Sweat" and "Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud".

In 1969 he returned to New York City. He worked as an arranger and musical director for CTI Records' Kudu label, collaborating with artists like George Benson, Hank Crawford and Esther Phillips. In the late 1970s he moved to San Francisco and formed a band with former Miles Davis sideman David Liebman.

Between 1979 and 1986 he worked with Van Morrison's band as an arranger and musical director and then again from 1995 through 1999. He also gave occasional performances in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2006 as guest appearances.

In the late 1980s Pee Wee regrouped with some musicians he worked with during his time with James Brown to form the JB Horns. With Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker he recorded a number of albums that defined a distinctive brand of jazz-funk. The group also toured in Europe.

Ellis's composition "The Chicken" was made famous by the electric bass player Jaco Pastorius, who recorded it on his album "The Birthday Concert", as well as "Invitation".

In 1995, showing the diversity of his musical interests and talents, Ellis played tenor sax and arranged the horns for the album Worotan, by Mali's Oumou Sangare, the so-called "Songbird of Wassoulou".

In 2009 Pee Wee toured a tribute to James Brown called "Still Black Still Proud". He performed this with special guests Mahotella Queens and Ghanaian born rapper Ty at the Frome Festival on July 12 2009, and again in a series of concerts in Europe during April and May 2010.

He is currently living in the town of Frome in the country of Somerset, in England.

An african tribute to James Brown,

Reference - Wikipédia

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