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June 2004

Pee Wee Ellis
What You Like
Minor Music

Pee Wee Ellis is a versatile cat. He claims that he doesn't like pigeonholes, and yet he's mastered all of them. Ellis' stylistic diversity can be heard on What You Like (Minor Music), an album he recorded in '97 that is finally hitting the streets. It's Ellis' first in a big-band setting since taking over the ensemble behind James Brown in 1967 at age 26, which came after he studied with Sonny Rollins and established solid jazz credentials. Then later it was on to Brother Jack McDuff and arranging for George Benson, Hank Crawford and Sonny Stitt.

All the above influences can be heard on What You Like, from the boogaloo of "The Prophet" to the down-home groove of "Far From Home." Jenni Evans contributes three fine vocals, but Van Morrison's guest shot could have been phoned in. Ellis shows his balladic purity on "I Get Along Without You Very Well" and shows off a screaming flat five to end "2 Dock C" (based on Rollins' "Doxy"). Add to that the excellent backing of the Hamburg-based NDR Big Band, the keyboard work of Steve Hamilton, the guitaristry of Tony Remy, the drumming of Michael Mondesir and the arrangements of Jorg Achim Keller and What You Like should please any demographic.

Originally published in June 2004
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