Jazz musician John Ellis doesn't currently live in New Orleans but his new album with band Double-Wide certainly has a most New Orleans-y feel about it. There's no stretch here, given the time Ellis spent living in the city (he currently resides in New York) and the fact that half of his band, Double-Wide, is from the Crescent City-- Jason Marsalis shines on percussion duties while Matt Perrine does great work on sousaphone.
Charm, released September 18, is one for the horn-lovers, to be sure. Horns are featured throughout, and one track is even entitled "International Tuba Day," on which Perrine does not disappoint. Ellis' own specialty is the tenor saxophone, however. As a saxophonist, he's performed on more than 100 albums for artists ranging from Robert Glasper to Sting.
In an album full of horns, "Better Angels" is a track that stands out. It brings the listener straight into the room, as though privy to a private, passionate concert. Charm's opening song, "Booker," happily invokes Carnival season without repeating the old riffs while paying homage to James Booker, and the album moves on strongly from there. Many of the tracks hold an underlying old world feel, perhaps most notably on "Old Hotel" and "Snake Handler." Ellis gets playful and humorous on "Charm Is Nearly Always Sinister" and "Horse Won't Trot," and mixes it up by adding keys and accordion in throughout. The final song, "Yearn," has a loving and sincere lilt to it.
When John Ellis & Double-Wide are in New Orleans, you can often find them onstage at Snug Harbor.