John Ellis

I’ve been meaning to introduce you folks to Mr. John Ellis for a while now.  Maybe you don’t need any introduction because you already know about him from my records or from his own very impressive, very soulful records.

Either way, let’s get on with it.  John is a favorite friend.  Full stop.  Besides being a wonderful musician, he and I can talk for hours about things close to our hearts: what’s growing in your garden, what are the sounds you hear in an old wooden church in the South (besides singing, of course), what did you see when you were out turkey hunting, and other important, real-life musings.

His official bio puts it nicely, "John grew up with a love of baseball, dewberry cobbler, turkey and stuffing. Raised in rural tobacco country North Carolina, he was more familiar with the sounds of hunting rifles and the dangers of snapping turtles than he was with the sounds and dangers of jazz."

He is a dangerous saxophonist.  No doubt.  Check out the titles of his songs and you'll see what I mean.  Dangerously funky, too.  Consider yourself warned.  Listen, watch or buy right here.

(This interview is part of the Tenacity series.  Read the FAQ here.)


What made a difference for you along the way?  Tell me a story about that moment.

1)  I had a deep connection to southern folk music through congregational singing, the camp songs of my grandparents, and the songs that were sung to me as a baby.

2)  My parents weren't overly afraid to let me pursue a career so likely to be financially unstable.

3)  I had really great mentors/teachers: my grandfather, my parents, my first saxophone teacher James Houlik, Ellis Marsalis, Harold Battiste, Nicholas Payton, Robert Sadin.

4)  I've always been committed to practice - I think I need it for my sanity, actually.

5)  I have amazing peers in New Orleans and New York who have inspired me by showing me what's possible and who continue to challenge me to be more than I am. 


To whom would you like to ask this question?  Living or dead.

Fred Rogers, Temple Grandin, Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi