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Ellis In Wonderland

Herb Ellis

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Album Review

In the midst of his tenure with the Oscar Peterson Trio, Herb Ellis had the chance to turn the tables on his boss and employ him as a sideman, though the keyboard virtuoso strangely reigns in his chops and pretty much stays in the background. This pair of sessions was first issued on a Norgran LP and finally reissued as a Verve CD in early 2006. The first four tracks add Jimmy Giuffre (alternating between baritone sax, tenor sax, and clarinet) and trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, along with fellow Peterson sideman Ray Brown and drummer Alvin Stoller. Ellis' originals include the easygoing "Sweetheart Blues" and the cooking bop vehicle "Pogo," where both the leader and Edison eclipse Giuffre's efforts on sax. "It Could Happen to You" focuses exclusively on Ellis, with Peterson and Edison sitting out and Giuffre adding some background color on clarinet. Alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano is added for the latter date. The well-known "Detour Ahead" (jointly credited to Ellis and his former Soft Winds bandmates Lou Carter and Johnny Frigo, though Frigo has long maintained that it was his composition alone) has a chamber-like setting, with the band primarily providing background for Ellis, though Ray Brown gets in a snappy solo toward the end. The session picks up with the bubbly "Ellis in Wonderland" and a snappy rendition of "Have You Met Miss Jones?" Giuffre's loping "A Simple Tune" reflects Ellis' Texas roots in a bluesy setting, with Peterson finally getting a chance to stretch out for a chorus. This early album by Herb Ellis is well worth acquiring.

Biography

Born: August 4, 1921 in Farmersville, TX

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

An excellent bop-based guitarist with a slight country twang to his sound, Herb Ellis became famous playing with the Oscar Peterson Trio during 1953-1958. Prior to that, he had attended North Texas State University and played with the Casa Loma Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey (1945-1947), and the sadly under-recorded trio Soft Winds. While with Peterson, Ellis was on some Jazz at the Philharmonic tours and had a few opportunities to lead his own dates for Verve, including his personal favorite, Nothing But...
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Ellis In Wonderland, Herb Ellis
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