Ellis: Children in Peril Suite
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The minimal liner notes speak of a two-part suite of tone poems for children who have suffered and tone poems really is the best description for this disc by L.S. Ellis, the jazz bassist formerly known as Lisle Ellis when he was based in Vancouver, Canada. The lyrical, melodic and usually short pieces generally leave a lot of open space as they move through phases marked by pretty abstract free playing yet with no fear of walking straight-ahead on the opening "Vilification."
The quintet includes minimal pianist Dana Reason and alto saxophonist Marco Eneidi but Peter Apfelbaum and Joe McPhee are cryptically listed as multi-instrumentalists. Without individual track credits, you wind up wondering who's playing trumpet (I'd wager McPhee) and who's the drummer (I suspect Apfelbaum on the sorta unschooled funky thrashing).
Eneidi's sudden splurts and bursts make "Before Or After" an exercise in funky pointillism and the rowdy bassline kicking off "Secreted Blues" becomes the spine of a progressively more rambunctious blend of murmuring piano, funky drums, trumpet and alto. "Forgotten" is very open and mournful, with a "Pink Panther"-ish jazz noir feel at times, and "Anticipation Of An Embrace" is a perfect title—Ellis' bassline and the yearning sax sounds just like it, before the conflicting emotional cross-currents get more complex and complicated.
The vaguely Asian "Monkeyshines" starts off introspective and ruminative with gamelan-like percussion and spare piano before it gets to a nice, floating saxophone duel. "What Love" features Ellis walking forcefully and "No More Tears" an un-fragmented opening melody that drops into alto sax flurries joined by trumpet with piano ripples underneath. The start to "Adjunct and Adjournment" ebbs and flows and eddies, a choppy ride due to the drumming before some quicksilver but soft sax flurries (I'm guessing Eneidi) work the kinks out before Reason starts knotting it up again.
In the end, Children in Peril Suite is a strong disk for those who favor abstract improvisation built around different textures and tones more than high-energy free blowing.
Born: November 01, 1956 in Portland, OR
Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s
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