Pee Wee Ellis (born April 21, 1941) is an influential American saxophonist, composer, and arranger who has made significant contributions to the world of jazz and funk music. Born Alfred Ellis in Bradenton, Florida, he developed a passion for music at a young age, learning to play the piano and saxophone. His musical journey led him to attend the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he studied composition and music theory.
Ellis’s career took a major turn in the mid-1960s when he joined James Brown’s band as a tenor saxophonist. He played an instrumental role in shaping the sound of Brown’s music, contributing his innovative arrangements and compositions to many of Brown’s hits, including “Cold Sweat” and “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Ellis’s work with James Brown has been credited with helping to define the sound of funk music.
In the 1970s, after leaving Brown’s band, Ellis continued to build his reputation as a sought-after musician, working with a variety of artists such as Van Morrison, Ginger Baker, and George Benson. He also formed his own band, The Assembly, which allowed him to further explore his creative interests in jazz and funk music.
Throughout his career, Pee Wee Ellis has released several solo albums, showcasing his unique blend of jazz, funk, and soul. Some of his notable albums include “Blues Mission,” “A New Shift,” and “What You Like.” His work as a composer and arranger has earned him respect among his peers and has had a lasting impact on the development of jazz and funk music.
In addition to his work as a recording artist, Ellis has been a dedicated educator, sharing his knowledge and passion for music with the next generation of musicians through workshops and masterclasses.
In summary, Pee Wee Ellis is a renowned American saxophonist, composer, and arranger who has left an indelible mark on the world of jazz and funk music. His innovative work with James Brown, collaborations with various artists, and dedication to music education have secured his place as an influential figure in the music industry.