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here to see Pee Wee Ellis @ Still Black Still Proud. An African
Tribute to James Brown, 2008...
21 April 1921 – 24 September 2021
Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis has died at the age of 80
Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis was born to play music. In Texas
Pee Wee got to see blues greats like Bobby "Blue" Bland
and Fats Domino. With clarinet and sax lessons in school, he was
skilled on reeds as well as piano when his family moved to Rochester,
New York at age 16.
In Rochester he met Sonny Rollins, who agreed to give him lessons.
Ellis joined James Brown in 1965 and soon came up with the first
pure hardcore Funk hit, Cold Sweat, followed by 26 others that defined
what we think of as Funk to this day. Ellis has been called The
Man Who Invented Funk.
Ellis’ effect on music was huge, leading directly to George
Clinton, Sly Stone and, in a circular twist, Miles Davis’
By 1970 Ellis worked as arranger and musical director for CTI-Kudu
records, the most popular jazz label of the 70s. He worked with
Esther Phillips as well as George Benson, Hank Crawford and dozens
of other CTI artists.
In 1979 Van Morrison asked Ellis to do arrangements for his Into
The Music album, an association that lasted for six years and five
albums then was repeated for another five years and five more albums
in the last half of the 90’s.
In between, a reunited JB Horns – Ellis, Fred Wesley and Maceo
Parker - made several albums and toured extensively.
Meanwhile, Ellis had found world music, or it had found him. He
contributed arrangements for Malian singer Oumou Sangare’s
album Worotan also for Senegalese singer Cheikh Lô. That led
to arranging and playing for two Cuban legends: Cachaito and Miguel
ŒAnga’ Diaz. He continues to arrange for World Circuit
Records, including work on Ali Farka Toure's last album, Savane.
Also on Cheikh Lô’s latest and funkiest CD “Lampfall”.
The Pee Wee Ellis Assembly regularly tours and he has worked with
UK jazz singing sensation Clare Teal. In 2005 he visited Japan with
the Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and in 2006 they played together again,
in South Africa and at Yoshi¹s in Oakland.