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Pee Wee Ellis: Swing It Loud

Jazz and funk saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis on his new double-CD, James Brown, Van Morrison and more

Pee Wee Ellis
Pee Wee Ellis

Pee Wee Ellis remembers the phone call that changed his life. It was 1965 and he was living in Rochester, N.Y., when his trumpet-playing colleague Waymon Reed asked him if he might be interested in a job. “James Brown was in need of a saxophone player,” Ellis recalls from his present home in Somerset, England. “I said, ‘Well, that’s something I can do.'”

Ellis stayed with the Godfather of Soul for four high-profile years, co-writing such epochal R&B hits as “Cold Sweat” and “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).” He played on and arranged most of Brown’s other bestsellers of the period, and helped to create funk music in the process. But all along he only had one goal in mind: “I wanted to be able to afford to play jazz! I didn’t think it would take this long, but it’s been a nice ride.”

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