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Pee Wee Ellis


Pee Wee Ellis, best known for his ground breaking work with James Brown, had worked as Esther Phillips' bandleader back in the 1970's; in an interview in (I believe) The Wire back in 1995 or so, he said he had some beautiful live show tapes which he would have liked to see released as a tribute to her.  Esther has always been one of my favorite female vocalists; I produced and annotated the 1984 Savoy Jazz "Complete EP Savoy Sessions" set (originally a double LP - one LP of early 1950's Johnny Otis Band sessions, the second covering her 1956 and 1959 solo works); it's still around as a CD through all of the subsequent Savoy changes of ownership.  I contacted Ellis through his management and eventually arranged to meet with him while he was in New York (touring with Van Morrison).  I had spoken with a couple of labels I had done work for (including Joe Fields' High Note label, successor to Muse which had put out my EP project during the time they owned Savoy)  and there was definite interest in a CD. We met at his hotel and I listened to a cassette he'd brought; beautiful soundboard quality and lovely performances of some EP classics ("And I Love Him", "Whisper To A Scream", etc., and a 20 minute version of "What A Difference A Day Makes" with long instrumental solos; nice material but not enough there for a CD.  I asked if there was more, and he said he had more tapes "back in Vegas".  So we left it there; I tried to hook up with him again several times, but unfortunately the wheels fell of the car on this project.  I'm sure those tapes are gone now, what a shame !!  Esther, to my mind, was at her best "live", and there are some lovely performances floating around on Youtube....         


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