John Ellis  \\  Saxophone

The second place winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition in 2002, Ellis has also established himself as one of New York’s premier tenor saxophonists, working with artists as diverse as John Patitucci, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Miguel Zenón, Darcy James Argue, Charlie Hunter, and Sting. His discography lists more than 100 album credits as a sideman, with more than a dozen released in 2014 alone.

As a Musician


The gifted, versatile saxophonist/clarinetist/composer John Ellis occupies an imaginary (and extremely imaginative) space directly between the celebratory, welcoming spirit of New Orleans and the edgy, frantic streets of New York City. Both as the leader of his own eclectic projects and as an in-demand sideman for a mind-boggling number and variety of artists, Ellis expresses a keen intellect and easy virtuosity while maintaining a mischievous gleam in his eye and never letting tongue stray far from cheek.


That combination is best showcased in Ellis’ eccentric combo Double-Wide, which recently released its third album, Charm, on Ellis’ own Parade Light Records. Ellis also leads his own quintet of A-list players, whose most recent release was the 2012 Criss Cross release It’s You I Like featuring songs by singer-songwriter Elliott Smith and legendary kids’ TV host Mr. Rogers. An ambitious composer as well as an agile musician, Ellis in recent years has composed three large-scale narrative pieces commissioned by The Jazz Gallery in collaboration with playwright Andy Bragen  (“Dreamscapes”, “The Ice Siren”, and “MOBRO”).



Ellis grew up in rural North Carolina and pursued his love of music to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and later to New Orleans, where he studied with jazz family patriarch Ellis Marsalis. Ellis released his debut album, The Language of Love, in 1996 and a year later relocated to New York City. Despite the move, the title of his 2005 album One Foot in the Swamp captures his continuing ties to the Bayou, which shines through in the southern-accented, gospel-tinged funk grooves of his music. Ellis has released nine albums as a leader, three of those featuring his urban carnival band Double-Wide.

As an Educator


With Aaron Goldberg, he is the co-arranger/composer of the Baby Loves Jazz series of books and cds, and the musical director of All Souls at Sundown, a jazz and poetry series in NYC. He resides in New York City.

John has been a leading the Saxophone stream of the Veneto Jazz Workshop, in Venice Italy for the last few years.

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