On the death of Pee Wee Ellis: The father of groove – culture

If James Brown was the “Godfather of Soul”, then Pee Wee Ellis was the “Inventor of Funk”. Alfred Ellis, who was born in Florida in 1941 but grew up in Texas and was only called “Pee Wee” at an early age, came from jazz – Sonny Rollins, whom he met on the street in New York when he was 16 and asked for lessons, remained his guiding star. as far as tone and power are concerned. But the saxophonist did not have it with exalted technique and self-loving bebop solos. His foundation was the blues and his profession was rhythm.

This made him the perfect addition to James Brown. He brought energy, mouthwork and choreography with him, but for the musical, for the sharp grooves that should be called funk, Ellis was responsible. Brown’s big years, from 1965 to 1969, were when Ellis was the musical director. Witnesses report that many of the famous pieces of the era, not just “Cold Sweat”, were studio developed by Ellis but were co-opted by the enterprising Brown. As a result, Ellis eventually got fed up with the man “who thought he was a musician” and found more generous partners.

The most intense was the collaboration with Esther Phillips and Van Morrison, but he also played for Blood, Sweat & Tears, George Benson, Marianne Faithfull or Lenny Kravitz. With his old James Brown companions and fellow sufferers, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, he finally took over the funk inheritance in the eighties. First together as JB Horns, then everyone went solo. Ellis was the last, initially with a purely German band – the Munich drummer Guido May stayed with him until the end. Before Corona, they were still on the road with an unrivaled powerful and lascivious Christmas show with China Moses and Ian Shaw. The next tour was scheduled for 2022. It didn’t come to that anymore. Pee Wee Ellis died last Friday at the age of 80 in his adopted home in southern England.

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