Pee Wee Ellis – Blues Mission (1992)

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“Blues Mission” was the first bonafide solo release by Maceo Parker’s running buddy Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis — one of the funkiest homo sapiens anywhere.

Happily included are updated versions of his seminal pieces with James Brown — the immortal, groundbreaking “Cold Sweat,” a sort of emancipation for jazz in the form of a soul-funk voting card. This song is perhaps the apex of his late-1960s stint in the Brown band — a period that included Ellis-arranged hits like “In the Middle,” “Popcorn” and “Soul Pride” — but that’s not the end of the line for our man Pee Wee.

Ten years after leaving the Brown band, Ellis came on as bandleader and arranger for Van Morrison, a pairing that lasted until 1986. Since, Ellis has been regrouped with Parker and Fred Wesley from the old band, and appearing on sideman projects.

This studio album seemed to point up one inalieable fact: We need guys like Pee Wee moving and grooving.

From the smooth soul of “Yellin’ Blue” all the way until the monster title track, Ellis remains hip and healthily cool. Most pleasingly, early stints with jazzers like Ron Carter, Chuck Mangione and Sonny Rollins also emerge.

Stir in liberally with the swimming funk of Brown and the high emotion of Morrison, and you have a mission of your own: Go get this thing. The band is wah-wah wow … including drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who sat in with Ellis on Brown’s “Mother Popcorn.”

Will it make you sweat? Yeah.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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