Friday, March 12, 2010

John Ellis and Double Wide - Puppet Mischief (Obliqsound, 2010)

Taking inspiration from the carnivals, fairs and street life of his adopted hometown of New Orleans, saxophonist and composer John Ellis formed his band Double Wide with the unique instrumentation of Brain Coogan on organ, Matt Perrine on sousaphone, Jason Marsalis on drums, Gregorie Maret on harmonica and Alan Ferber on trombone. With this unusual combination of instruments, the group is able to get a lot of interesting textures and shadings from their music. "Okra and Tomatoes" opens the album with bumping organ and sousaphone, accented by wispy harmonica. Soulful tenor saxophone and trombone make for a happy sound before laying out for a spacey harmonica feature. "Dewey Dah" has a harmonica led melody with the other horns blending in behind. Swirling organ ushers in a dark toned saxophone solo. The title track "Puppet Mischief" is taken at an impishly fast pace, with Ellis stepping out for a well paced solo. Maret takes a breezy solo on harmonica with bumping horns underneath and a fast nimble drum feature. "Dublinland Carnival" has a fast and cartoonish theme, like something for a silent movie chase scene where trombone and saxophone trade phrases. It's not all go for broke uptempo performances, "Carousel" and "Chorale" have slower and spacious tempos and the music takes on a winsome at times mournful nature. This was an interesting and well played album. The band creates a sound that is unusual in jazz today, drawing from the New Orleans influence of old time jazz but in a thoroughly modern way that makes the music accessible and fun. Puppet Mischief - amazon.com

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