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Jazz Me Blues Band Members

Clark Dean Photo

Clark Dean

Clark Dean is one of the only soprano saxophonists still playing in the spirit of Sidney Bechet and Bunk Johnson. Clark met Bechet in Paris and saw him play at the Olympia Music Hall and saw him again in Chicago. "He had more effect on me than Louis Armstrong -- I was able to hear what he was doing. Nobody could touch that unique sound. I've never tried to play like Bechet , that's impossible, but people say they love my sound, and that's encouragement enough to keep playing and learning."

Clark wrests everything from his lithe soprano horn solos in what seems a joyful agony. His introductory choruses to Cherry, for example, are an aural ecstasy that sets the evening's tone and transports the listener to another time.

"I first started listening to the great tenors -- Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster then Zoots Sims and Lester Young. I had a tenor but couldn't get that sound. I hung onto my soprano but I didn't play for 30 years -- but I was always listening."

Those years were spent as a photographer and his work has appeared on recordings by Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery and on all the Jazz Me Blues releases. He's recorded with pianist Erwin Helfer (with Odie Payne) for the Red Beans label and with Saffire the Uppity Blues Women for Alligator.

Master musician and mastermind musical matchmaker that he is, it was Clark who persuaded John to sing, recognizing the great potential in developing duets with Yoko. "Sometimes I think I created a monster," he says with affection.

"We're very, very lucky in finding the wonderful musicians in the band: people that we like to be with as people. After that comes the fact that they're superb musicians and entertainers. That's as good as it gets."

Clark Dean can be reached by email at: clarkdean@jazzmebluesmusic.com

Tatsu Aoki Photo

Tatsu Aoki

Tatsu Aoki the genial, brilliant metaphysical technician of the bass is also founder of the Chicago Asian-American Jazz Festival -- not to mention a snappy dresser.

He's appeared on about 40 different projects as a sideman, is currently active with several groups as a musician, producer, and composer, and has recorded six acclaimed solo CDs. Firmly entrenched in both the worlds of experimental music and the fold arts, Tatsu has practiced the traditional Japanese art of Taiko drumming since a child, yet plays the stand-up bass in free-bop and straight-ahead amalgamations and finds new means of expression in the free-jazz arena with Fred Anderson, Mwata Bowden and Malachi Favors. Tatsu rejects pigeon-holing, however, and and is happiest to be described merely as a 'bassist'.

Although he has his choice of numerous projects, Tatsu says, "My decision to commit myself to be a part of this band was because this band seems to offer something that I can do well. What's important to me is when the music is good."

"You have to listen to the other players. My approach to the band is the same way as my other ones. I just pay attention to what's going on."

Never a mere listener, Tatsu's kinetic accompaniment respects tradition while finding plenty of creative room to stretch out, as he does on his thoroughly inventive plucking and bowing solos and on his striking finish to Snow Country.

"I don't think any band playing blues in Chicago has a sound like this," says Tatsu who as a senior member of Jazz Me Blues has done much to contribute to that sound. "It's always refreshing. What I really love is that there is so much in this band that is about humor and fun."

Jimmy Ellis Photo

Jimmy Ellis

The remarkable saxophonist Jimmy Ellis grew up in a musical family on Chicago's south side in the 1930's and 40's. Jimmy met, heard and shared his life with many of the great jazz artists of that era. He attended Du Sable high school with Nat King Cole and Johnny Griffin and they all studied music with the famous band director Captain Walter Dyett. Jimmy has performed with many great bands through the years including a tour with Earl Hines.

Jimmy Ellis has dedicated his life to music as a performer and a teacher. Many of his students are among the foremost jazz players of today.


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