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State of Mind by Dave Ellis

True to his Berkeley roots, tenor saxophonist Dave Ellis is a gifted performer that absorbs and weaves different strands of cultural influences into his music. While Berkeley is seen is a place where anything goes, it is more of where anything is possible. Ellis has used this sensibility to his advantage in the people he plays with which include Bay Area musicians Charlie Hunter, Dmitri Matheny and the various configurations of the Dead.

On this album, "State of Mind," Ellis teams up with the legendary producer Orrin Keepnews as well as veteran performers such as pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassists Peter Washington and Christian McBride, drummers Carl Allen and Lewis Nash and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring to create an astonishing album. It is a supremely confident, musically attractive performance. Ellis’ tone is full and crisp, his solos distinctive. The band is propulsive and they remain fully in precise control. The band is democratic in the sense that there is easy and level-headed rapport between the musicians. The album represents a state of mind that is disciplined while hinting of his eclectic roots. It is a beautiful combination.Dmitri Matheny and the various configurations of the Dead.

Though hardly eclectic, the pieces range from two Ellis compositions and a Miller original to selections from Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn, John Coltrane, Horace Silver, and George and Ira Gershwin. Ellis’ ‘Isabella Blue’ and Miller’s ‘Soul-Leo’ already sound like a hard bop classics. They flow sound easily. Of the latter, Ellis and his band do not recite, they engage each other and create their own patterns and images. The music is unusually attractive. Parker’s ‘Barbados’ is thoroughly sunny while Ellington’s ‘Something to Live For’ is wistful and golden. Silver’s ‘Peace’ is stunning with intricate interplay between Ellis and Miller. ‘Summertime’ uses an arrangement by Noel Jewkes that is a bit off-kilter and represents a different and pleasant twist to what is expected. Dmitri Matheny and the various configurations of the Dead.

"State of Mind" is definitively excellent and Dave Ellis has extraordinary promise for his future ventures.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dave Ellis
  • CD Title: State of Mind
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Milestone
  • Tracks: Not That You Asked, Barbados, Soul-Leo, Something to Live For, Sunshowers, Grand Central, Don’t Blame Me, Isabella Blues, Peace, Summertime
  • Musicians: Dave Ellis (tenor saxophone), Mulgrew Miller (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Carl Allen (drums), Vincent Herring (alto saxophone), Christian McBride (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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