John Ellis and Double-Wide
Friday, November 10th, 8 p.m.| Arcata Playhouse
"Full of funk and lighter than air."
—Ben Ratliff, New York Times
After tenor man John Ellis—the second consecutive-year returnee of the 2017-18 season—wowed us last November as part of the Helen Sung Quartet, we asked him to come back with his own band, the New Orleans/New York City potpourri he calls Double-Wide.
Raised in rural North Carolina, Ellis honed his craft in the Crescent City under the tutelage of another Ellis (the jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis), then migrated to New York, the base for his busy career over the last twenty years. In that time, he’s turned himself into a first-call sideman, playing on countless albums and stages with everyone from Sting to Dr. Lonnie Smith. He’s also written three large-scale narrative compositions with New York playwright Andy Bragen, and he was the Herb Alpert Foundation's 2014 Make Jazz Fellow at Santa Monica’s 18th Street Arts Center, where he wrote the tunes for Double-Wide’s latest album, Charm.
Double-Wide is Ellis’s celebratory fusion of the two cities that are his spiritual homes. The music is a playful and complex mashup, the kind of melding you might only hear in a busy port city, where diverse influences find common ground and then proceed to dance upon it. Since its formation in 2007, the group has graced festival stages (including the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival) and released three albums’ worth of buoyant carnival-bop.
Even with those two overriding components—New Orleans & New York—Ellis’s compositions give off a variety of flavors, no doubt in part because he knows how to pick his ingredients. Previous configurations of the band have included Gary Versace on keyboards and Gregoire Maret on harmonica. For this show, Jason Marsalis, Matt Perrine, and Brian Coogan provide the NOLA base, while Alan Ferber and Ellis add the NYC seasoning.
Jason Marsalis’s jazz credentials need little introduction. He’s been drumming professionally since he was a kid, backing up his venerable family and others with a resolute swing that’s rooted in New Orleans tradition. Matt Perrine’s spry sousaphone is another staple of the Big Easy’s storied scene, and he has a long list of credits as an arranger and player of multiple low-register instruments. Coogan, another Louisianan, is a versatile keyboardist, adept in the rhythmic nuances of the region and the ville. Alan Ferber, born in Oakland and based in New York, is not just an expressive trombonist with an impressive CV, but also a premier composer and arranger whose work for nonet and big band has garnered multiple Grammy nominations.All these elements together create a bold and nuanced affair, a rollicking cabaret of inspired twists and grooving hymns with healthy doses of humor and festivity. It may be autumn in NoCal, not carnival time in NOLA, but just the same, we’re inviting Double-Wide to laissez les bons temps rouler!
Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website and at People's Records, Wildwood Music, Wildberries, and The Works.
Double-Wide will also present an open, pre-concert public workshop on the afternoon of November 10th (exact time TBA), also at the Arcata Playhouse. People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.
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