Charm by John Ellis & Double-Wide in stores tomorrow, 9/18


Saxophonist John Ellis has deep roots in New Orleans. He is now a well-regarded player on the New York scene, but stays connected to the Crescent City through his work with Double Wide. Charm, their third album, drops tomorrow.

Double Wide is a super group of sorts with a local rhythm section—Jason Marsalis on drums and Matt Perrine on sousaphone. Gary Versace is on keys and accordion and Alan Ferber, a killer trombonist who appeared as a special guest on the group’s second release, Puppet Mischief, round out the group under the leadership of Ellis.

I have written before about the two previous Double Wide albums, mentioning the circus music-like vibe of some of the songs and the fun-loving approach the band takes to the groove. I feel the same way about the new album.

The first song on the album, “Booker,” also references New Orleans since it takes its cue from the great New Orleans pianist James Booker. TVD premiered the song back in June and I wrote at the time, “Like much of the album, “Booker” was written during a three-month residency at Santa Monica’s 18th Street Arts Center where Ellis’ wake-up music of choice was often the pianist. The song pays tribute to Booker’s vibrant sound, with only a hint of his ultimately tragic life.”

Each of the songs on the album is intricately thought out compositionally, but they are not designed to be intellectually challenging. They are fun, buoyant, and charming with lots of other references to roots stylings.

“High and Mighty” and “Snake Handler” evoke gospel music and Pentecostal churches respectively. “Yowl” closes the album with a bluesy feel. “International Tuba Day” puts Matt Perrine and his bubbling, gurgling sousaphone front and center.

The album is another feather in the cap for a saxophonist who cut his musical teeth in New Orleans and has since worked with a who’s who of jazz greats including Dr. Lonnie Smith, Miguel Zenón, and Charlie Hunter.

John Ellis and Double Wide will celebrate the release of the new album on October 8 at Snug Harbor.

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