THE PEE WEE ELLIS ASSEMBLY – Tickets – Yoshi’s Oakland – Oakland, CA – October 9th, 2017


Widely known for his work with James Brown, Maceo Parker & many more


Mon 10.9

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Yoshi's Oakland

Oakland, CA

$23.00 - $55.00

Few musicians celebrate their 70th birthday by releasing a new double album and even fewer are still actively touring the world with their own bands or working in new collaborations. But after some 55 + eventful years as a musician, bandleader, arranger and composer Pee Wee Ellis can claim all those things.

Born in Florida in 1941, Pee Wee was living in Rochester NY by the mid 50’s, his family having moved there after his stepfather was killed in a racial incident in Texas. High school student Pee Wee had already found his place in the city’s vibrant jazz scene playing with friends like Ron Carter and Chuck Mangione. He was performing most nights and travelling regularly to New York City, the hub of modern jazz, where his musical heroes frequented the jazz clubs Downtown. Fate struck when the young Pee Wee bumped into saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins on Broadway and so began a pupil-mentor relationship that still continues to this day.

He returned to FLorida in the early 1960’s and was leading his own bands and working as a sideman and session musician when in 1965 he got the call, the call to join the James Brown Revue. Within a few months he was appointed bandleader, co-writing with Mr Brown and bringing jazz influence to soul music. When ‘Cold Sweat’ burst onto the R&B and Pop charts in 1967 they called it ‘funk’ and a new sound was born that has influenced every genre of popular music since.

After a four year stint with James Brown that produced 26 tunes – including the anthemic hit ‘Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud’ Pee Wee left the band and took his skills to CTI Records, who snapped him up as in-house arranger. He spent the next few years in the studio and on the road with acts like Hank Crawford, George Benson and also Esther Phillips, with whom he formed a lasting & harmonious musical partnership.

In the late 1970’s whilst living in Marin CA, Pee Wee was introduced to Van Morrison by mutual friend Mark Isham. Van invited Pee Wee to arrange on his 1979 album: ‘Into The Music’ and so was born a successful partnership that saw Pee Wee become Van’s bandleader for five years. In that time Pee Wee arranged horns on five albums and played countless live shows with Van.

His jazz-funk roots began calling as a generation of hip-hop samplers and acid jazz devotees wanted to hear it from the source in the 90’s and Pee Wee reunited with band mates Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley as the JB Horns (later becoming Roots Revisted), a stunning live jazz funk act that toured the world.

The mid ‘90s also saw Pee Wee back with Van Morrison for another five year string of hits, including the Pee Wee arranged ‘Days Like This’ and ‘That’s Life’ and by the end of the decade it was clear that his fame was truly worldwide. Invitations came to work with African and Cuban world music stars including Malian singer Oumou Sangare, Cheikh Lo from Senegal, Ali Farke Touré, the legendary desert guitarist from Timbuktu and Buena Vista Social Club stars Cachaito Lopez and Anga Diaz.

These collaborations would later inspire him to create ‘Still Black, Still Proud’ a spectacular touring tribute to James Brown featuring Cheikh Lo, Vieux Farka Touré, Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and ‘the voice of South Africa’ Vusi Mahlasela. This project is just one of many that have kept Pee Wee Ellis on the world’s stages throughout the new century.

As well as touring with his own band the Pee Wee Ellis Assembly, he can be found guesting with amongst others, Jimmy Cobb, Clare Teal, the Lionel Hampton & NDR Big Bands and most recently with Dr. John at the Bristol Jazz&Blues Festival (of which Pee Wee is a patron). He is a founder member of the much acclaimed Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion, who have been touring in Europe, America and Japan since 2011. 2015 will see Huey Morgan (Fun Lovin’ Criminals) joining Pee Wee on stage, for what has proven to be a funky good pairing.

He is still busy in the studio, contributing horn arrangements on recent albums from Boy George, Sarah Jane Morris and George Clinton as well as cutting his ‘Tenoration’, his own double album. In fact, Pee Wee boasts a fine catalogue of solo albums (most of which are currently available on iTunes & Spotify), including The Spirit of Christmas a fe s tive col lection of well loved Xmas songs with a jazz twi st, that was chosen by the New York Times as one of its best holiday albums in 2014

Remembering the generosity of those early lessons with Sonny Rollins, Pee Wee has also always found time to help young players through educational projects. This was recognised in 2014 when he received an honorary doctorate from Bath Spa University.
What keeps him going is the music, and the music remains his inspiration. His workload would exhaust many a younger man but Pee Wee take sit in his stride. Like he says – “A rest is good, but there comes a time when you just need to get back on it”. And for the man who shaped FUNK that time is always now.
Venue Information:
Yoshi's Oakland
510 Embarcadero West
Oakland, CA, 94607