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John Ellis: Music in Play

Video interview with the saxophonist and bandleader taped at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival

John Ellis, backstage at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival

During the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival, JazzTimes set up a make-shift video production studio backstage inside the old barracks of Fort Adams. During two afternoons, a succession of artists-including Jack DeJohnette, Jason Moran, Christian McBride, Linda Oh, Donny McCaslin, Dafnis Prieto and several others-came in to talk about the festival, jazz education and their own projects. We have been posting these interviews at You can also see more of these video interviews from the Newport Jazz Festival (in 2011 and 2012), as well as from the Jazz Cruise, at the JazzTimes YouTube channel.

In this interview from the Newport Jazz Festival, saxophonist and bandleader John Ellis talks about his early musical education and development, growing up in the South and eventually moving to New York City. He talks about how the city has challenged and inspired him. Ellis, who performed at the festival with his band Double-Wide, also discusses the inspiration for that group. And he explains his collaboration with playwright Andy Bragen, with whom he’s worked on two plays.

John Ellis on his early music education and development:

John Ellis on collaborating with playwright Andy Bragen:

Video by Melissa Mergner. Audio by Jen Kim.

Originally Published