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May 2005

John Ellis
One Foot in the Swamp
Hyena

Saxophonist John Ellis recorded his latest CD in New Orleans, and three of its tunes are exactly the sort of greasy jazz-funk tunes you'd expect from a recording named One Foot in the Swamp. Two songs feature guest guitarist John Scofield in the sort of lazy-hazy funk settings he can sleep through, but, man, they really do sound good-especially the opening track "Happy," which is the hands-down best thing on the disc.

While his New Orleans foot is obvious, Ellis is less forthcoming about the other, which-if you'll pardon the strained metaphor-he apparently keeps in the '70s. The rest of the CD features the sort of hard bop-to-jazz fusion that Miles Davis used to kick off that decade. Ellis also unearths some cheesy period-synth effects that should have probably stayed buried. With Aaron Goldberg on keys, Gregoire Maret on harmonica and guest trumpeter Nicholas Payton, Ellis works up some nice ensemble passages, but the band loses significant energy on the fusiony pieces. Not only does Ellis, a longtime member of Charlie Hunter's touring band, sound less convincing in this setting, his band-impatient drummer Jason Marsalis in particular-doesn't sound entirely comfortable either.

Originally published in May 2005
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