Pee Wee Ellis – Live and Funky (2001)

FrontCover1 Pee Wee Ellis must have played with James Brown for 100 years, and when James called for a sax solo it was always, to the best of my knowledge, “Maceo”, and when the horn section finally decided to do something on their own it was “Fred Wesley, Maceo, and the J.B.’s”. And yet, if you listen to the tenor solo on “Chicken” on Maceo’s “Mo Roots”, the player takes Maceo and Fred out, way badder, in my opinion then these very bad dudes. The tenor man was James’ shadow man, Pee Wee Ellis. “Chicken” is a tune he wrote, he plays it again on this cd with the same results. He also plays a solo that is the essence of funk, the thing, dirty as you wanna be, down in the dirt, the stone cold funk, on “Pass the Peas”. His style is funky, black as James Brown, but, at the same time, with chromatic post bop extensions that distinguishes him from the more traditional players (including Fred and Maceo). So you’re funking along with the usual hard riffs, and then comes a flat nine and a sharp 13, and you’re over the top, doin it, briefly in the grey area between harmony and dissonance, pleasure and pain, the real deal, and then, back to the funk. Here’s the thing, it’s jazz and it’s funky and the setting is pure funk – this is the man to listen to to hear great funk sax. (by Will Flannery)

High quality funk and jazz, as ever, by Pee Wee and the band. Great choices of tracks, usual phenomenal musicality and technique displayed.

Recorded live during the US Tour in spring 2001

Pee Wee Ellis (saxophone, vocals)
Mick Gaffney (guitar)
Mike Hogan (guitar)
John Mader (drums)
Curtis Ohlson (bass)
Fred Ross (vocals)
Jimmy Smith (keyboards)
Fred Wesley (trombone, vocals)

01. Chicken (Ellis) 8.25
02. How I Depend On You (Williams) 4.09
03. Grandma’s Hands (Withers) 5.45
04. Pass The Peas (Brown/Starks/Bobbitt) 5.28
05. House Party (Wesley) 8.36
06. What’s Up With That (Ellis) 6.26
07. Cherry Red (Johnson/Turner) 5.58
08. Cold Sweat/Licking Stick Licking (Brown/Byrd/Ellis) 6.45
09. I Got The Feeling (Brown) 4.06
10. I Got You (I Feel Good) (Brown) 5.08


Pee Wee, Fred & Maceo – The J.B. Horns (1990)

FrontCover1This album was done around the time of the Great Re-emergence of Fred & Maceo, along with their former James Brown bandmate Pee Wee Ellis. After playing with other bands or taking time off since the demise of their former bands, or leaving them altogether, they reunited with a purpose. They unleashed a torrent of records, and their live shows are now legendary. By taking the name ‘JB Horns’, it shows their purpose here was to carry on the funky name of their leader.

The feel of this album is halfway between rockin’ funky party and mellow jazz club show. While the funkier cuts are reminiscient of their groovingest days with JB and Bootsy’s Rubber Band, most of the tracks are closer to the jazz that Fred and Maceo would play throughout the 90’s, particularly Fred. Fans of these horn players should definitely get this and the other JB Horns albums, as they tend to get a little funkier here than on their own later solo stuff. But be aware: this is not a hardcore funk album like their 60’s and 70’s stuff. If you’re not a fan of jazz, there may be huge sections of the album that you won’t like. But definitely check out the first four tracks–those are the funkiest.

PeeWee01“Sweet & Tangy” is a superfunky tune, with a funked-up guitar and bass driving along the groove. There are several great guitar solos and a horn line that hooks you immediately and takes you for a ride. The song’s title is quite apt. “Bumpin'” has a cool doubled-up guitar/bass intro that goes into the background but keep driving the song. The horns then rip shit up, that’s the best way to describe it. “Step On Your Watch” is a hilarious dance song with inspired singing from Fred. It also has those great Rubber Band-ish horn bursts. “Mother’s Kitchen” has some compelling chord progressions, pushing along a sense of urgency. Pee Wee is dominant and aggressive here, with Maceo & Fred taking mellower solos. “Everywhere Is…” is a mellow piece, going straight to a horn solo focus. “Strut” has some very ordinary rhythms but nice horn interaction. “We’re Rolling” is most notable for the interesting use of dissonance towards the end by the horns. “Let’s Play House” is a slow, hot funker with some doubled-up horn lines that create some excellent tension. “Blues A La LS” is a blues/jazz sax showcase for Pee Wee. “Frontal System” and “Slipstream” are both mellow, jazzy tunes. (Robert Clough)

Bryan Bassett (guitar)
Bob Greenlee (bass)
Dwight Champagne (vocals)
Pee Wee Ellis (saxophone, vocals)
Yvonne Jackson (vocals)
Ernie Lancaster (guitar)
Maceo Parker (saxophone, vocals)
Jim Payne (drums)
Mark Puricelli (keyboards)
Fred Wesley (trombone, vocals)
01. Sweet And Tangy (Ellis/Parker/Wesley/Payne/Greenlee) 4.55
02. Bumpin’ )Wesley) 3.14
03. Step On Your Watch, Part II (Payne/Wesley/Jaffe/Anderson) 3.25
04. Mother’s Kitchen (Ellis/Parker/Wesley/Payne/Greenlee) 5.56
05. Everywhere Is Out Of Town (Ellis/Parker/Wesley/Payne/Greenlee) 4.58
06. Strut (Ellis) 4.07
07. We’re Rollin’ (Wesley) 4.30
08. Let’s Play House (Ellis/Parker/Wesley/Payne/Greenlee) 3.55
09. Blues A’ La L.S. (Ellis/Parker/Wesley/Payne/Greenlee) 5.15
10. Frontal System (Ellis/Parker/Wesley/Payne/Greenlee) 5.21
11. Slipstream (Puricelli) 5.05