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Live and Funky

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Album Review

Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis may not be a household name, but his name is spoken with reverence by other funk musicians and fans of vintage soul. A former music director for James Brown (and co-composer of such soul classics as "Cold Sweat" and "Say It Loud — I'm Black and I'm Proud"), he collaborated with Brown and fellow J.B.'s Fred Wesley, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, and others to establish the parameters of modern funk. This live album finds him reunited with several of his old compadres as well as singer Fred Ross for an unabashed revival of that sound, including a number of James Brown tunes ("Pass the Peas," "I Got the Feeling," "Cold Sweat," "I Got You [I Feel Good]"). There are a couple of missteps: the cover of Bill Withers' emotionally damp "Grandma's Hands" was utterly unnecessary, and it's not at all clear why Ellis chose to take "I Got You (I Feel Good)" at half the normal tempo. But overall, this album is lots of good, sweaty, greasy, funky fun. Recommended.


Born: 21 April 1941 in Bradenton, FL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis was the architect of James Brown's era-defining soul classics of the late '60s, introducing the dynamic arrangements and punishing rhythms that would define the emerging language of funk. Born Alfred Ellis in Bradenton, FL, on April 21, 1941, he was raised in Lubbock, TX, and was playing professionally by the time he reached middle school. In 1955, his family relocated to Rochester, NY, where he collaborated with classmates (and fledgling jazzmen) Chuck Mangione and Ron...
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Live and Funky, Pee Wee Ellis
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