Lisle Ellis

Lisle (b Lyle Steve) Ellis (b Lansall). Bassist, composer, b Campbell River, Vancouver Island, BC, 17 Nov 1951. He played bass guitar in Vancouver blues bands during his teens, then studied at the Vancouver Academy of Music.

Ellis, Lisle

Lisle (b Lyle Steve) Ellis (b Lansall). Bassist, composer, b Campbell River, Vancouver Island, BC, 17 Nov 1951. He played bass guitar in Vancouver blues bands during his teens, then studied at the Vancouver Academy of Music. In 1974 he attended the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY, where he came under the influence of the pianist Cecil Taylor and the saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, whose improvisational and compositional precepts have shaped his own work. Ellis was a founder in 1977 and a member until 1982 of the New Orchestra Workshop (performing as L.S. Lansall-Ellis in this period) before making Montreal the base of a peripatetic career that has taken him frequently across Canada and into the USA and Europe.

Tireless in his advocacy of a free-improvisational approach to the jazz tradition, Ellis developed an informal network during the 1980s of like-minded Canadian and US musicians. He programmed the États soniques series, 1990-1 at the Bar G-Sharp and thereafter at the Club Continental, to showcase their work in Montreal. He has maintained his own bands in Montreal (Free Force, then Line of Descent, both with the drummer John Heward and others) and in Vancouver (Freedom Force, with drummer Roger Baird and others).

Ellis also has performed in concert with the pianists Paul Bley, Marilyn Crispell, Al Neil, and (most notably) Paul Plimley, and with the saxophonists Paul Cram, Steve Potts and Glenn Spearman. In 1990 he toured Czechoslovakia with the Toronto guitarist Rainer Weins. His duo with Plimley (augmented by Spearman, the drummer Andrew Cyrille, and/or others previously associated with Taylor) has been heard at Canadian and US festivals. Ellis has been a stalwart, generally in Plimley's company, of the du Maurier (Ltd) International Jazz Festival, Vancouver. He also has given many solo concerts; his playing in any context is fundamental in its rhythmic and melodic conception, strenuously physical and rigorously emotional. In 1991 Ellis received the first Freddie Stone award ('for musical integrity and innovation') presented by the Sound Symposium.

In addition to his recordings with Plimley (see Plimley for details), he has made LPs and cassettes with various New Orchestra Workshop ensembles (see N.O.W. discography) and albums with Dennis Charles (Music Box, for Gallery in 1987) and Glenn Spearman (Latin Dramatic Revolution, for Musa Physics in 1988). He also has recorded several independent cassettes with Heward and others, as well as the solo bass Archipelago (1989).


Further Reading

  • Varty, Alex. 'Unequalled abstracted Ellis,' Vancouver Georgia Straight, 17-24 Nov 1989

    Jones, Andrew. 'Wild blossoms,' Montreal Mirror, 26 Apr - 3 May 1990

    'Lisle Ellis - Ninja of the bass,' interview with Larry Svirchev, Coda, 233, Aug-Sep 1990