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Sucker Punch Requiem

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Album Review

Bassist Lisle Ellis has been a fine creative improvising bassist within tuneful or song line jazz structures. As an instrumentalist and soloist he has been praised for innovations beyond normalized players in his field. For this CD, Ellis has taken a new step, incorporating the styles his second career authored as a painter and musical sound sculpture. His inspiration is the New York City artist and poet Jean-Michel Basquiat aka SAMO, who was culturally and politically motivated, and was paid tribute by graffiti drawers in the Big Apple. A study of the requiem form, particularly the Catholic "Mass of the Dead" welded onto Basquiat's line "Jimmy Best on his back to the sucker punch of his childhood files" has led Ellis to the "Sucker Punch Requiem." Many of these pieces are shorter, repeated or modified later in the program, and act as preludes or interludes. Of the extended tracks, "La Pulgas" (Repelling Ghosts) starts with a fractured intro, then eases into a 9/8 to 4/4 shuffle, powered by the unlikely pairing of the tart alto sax of Oliver Lake and the more tonic flute of Holly Hofmann. These two, with Lake on soprano sax and teamed with trombonist George Lewis make due with "For Blues & Other Spells," as mainstream jazz pianist Mike Wofford also steps out and explores. This is no ordinary blues connotation, as its deft, deliberate stance turns to rock & roll, a chamber waltz, and a chance for veterans Lewis and Lake to have at it in vibrant discourse. "Untitled" (Still Life) is a deep tune, the true requiem coda, and wrapped in an Asian motif with the probing bass of Ellis, naked and unfettered, chiming "Taps" while the somber band tearfully agrees. Of the shorter pieces, "Summonings" is a spooky siren song with SAMO's name being invoked, "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict" is a dirge, "Bas Relief" a free jazz snippet feature for Lake and drummer Susie Ibarra, "Suicide Study" is a blues shuffle/swing for Hofmann and Wofford and the first take of four "Perishable Fig." inserts gives the most industrial electronic surge. The diversity held throughout this CD is astonishing, disarming, and unmistakably truthful, as testament to the fortitude of Ellis, a high-water mark for his career, and a marvelous statement as to how different elements of art can be made into startling music. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Genre: Jazz

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

Bassist Lisle Ellis first came to light via his late-'80s and early-'90s collaborations with fellow Canadian, pianist Paul Plimley. Ellis went on to collaborate with a variety of free jazz artists on the West Coast, including clarinetist François Houle, drummer Donald Robinson, and violinist India Cooke. Other partners have included such Northern California-based musicians as saxophonist Glenn Spearman, pianist Matthew Goodheart, and saxophonist Larry Ochs. With Ochs and Robinson, Ellis formed the...
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Sucker Punch Requiem, Lisle Ellis
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