The Reunion Project

theReunionThe Reunion Project, co-lead by saxophonist Tony White and guitarist John Ehlis, though rooted in jazz, takes a very refreshing approach on the tradition.

Their music and communication create an appealing sound with a wide range of moods and sublime nuances. With lyrical melodies, broad harmonic textures, world grooves and their collective musical imaginations, their performances are engaging and gratifying occasions.

The quartet has it’s origins in the late-80’s on the campus of UC Riverside where Tony White and John Ehlis first discovered a shared interest in jazz, starting out as a duo and later in association with a small group of students who were active in improvised music. “From the first time we played,” Ehlis and White agree, “there was an ease with our musical conversation and quest for expression. In the early days we were gaining knowledge and putting the language we were learning to use, and we were really discovering, not replicating the standard riffs or imitating styles, but discovering our own voices. With the passage of time, our voices have become more clearly formed, while ever continuing to grow.”

Despite the geographical distance, Ehlis left Southern California in 1990, Tony and John have managed to perform in a variety of settings over the years including Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland, with Vinny Golia at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles and with Karl Berger’s Improvisers Orchestra in New York. Though their repertoire is founded on the steady pen of compositions written by Ehlis, they are inclined to include music by visionary artists such as Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef or Jim Pepper on their programs. The true catalyst for the birth of Reunion Quartet stems from a concert in 2013 when Ehlis and White played with Joseph Jarman in honor of his 76th Birthday at the Shape Shifter Lab in Brooklyn.

Continuing with the evolution of their college era groups, the other musicians who comprise the quartet are genuine contributors, as much by their talent as by their creative energies. Drummer and percussionist Ray McNamara and Ehlis have played together since 1990 and Ray is highly regarded in Southern California for his versatility and insightful mastery of rhythm.
The core members of the Reunion Project are Tony White (saxes), John Ehlis (guitar), and Ray McNamara (percussion).

Eastman Saxophone artist, Tony White began his music career on clarinet moving to tenor saxophone in high school. Inspired by musical greats John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Ernie Watts, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock and too many others to be mentioned, Tony went on to study music at The University of California, Riverside. In 1991, Tony became the music teacher at John C. Fremont High School. His bands performed at the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, the Pantages Theater giving his students at Fremont High School experiences that would last a lifetime which included performances with Lionel Hampton, Plas Johnson, Poncho Sanchez and Justo Almario.

Through working with the young people in the Los Angeles area, Tony realized that he needed to be performing more himself. With the nudging of the legendary Buddy Collette and esteemed Ernie Watts, Tony started performing and/or studying with artists such as Jeff Clayton, Gerald Wilson, Billy Mitchell, John Stephens, Bill Green, Dr. Art Davis, Jose Arellano, Al Viola, Bobby Rodriguez, Bernie Worrell and Walter Smith.

New York area guitarist John Ehlis is drawn to traditional and folk music from around the world and blends the sounds of many cultures into his own style. As a multi-instrumentalist, Ehlis learned the mandolin busking on the streets of Denmark, Germany and Italy and has studied various woodwind instruments and percussion, including the Balinese Gamelan. While in Zimbabwe he met local musicians, some who played with the legendary Thomas Mapfumo and performed at the Amakhosi Theatre in Bulawayo. He also performs and studies the music of the Basques.

Ehlis has performed throughout the United States, with musicians ranging from the avante-garde jazz of John Tchicai, Oliver Lake, Joseph Jarman, Karl Berger, Perry Robinson, and Francis Wong, to Marie Afonso of the vocal group Zap Mama, the instrument maker Ken Butler, Joe Craven from David Grisman’s group, classical guitarist Philip Hii, and a host or international artists including Basque musicians Tapia and Leturria, Ghanaian musicians Zorkie Nelson and Okee Nunoo, Danish drummer Kresten Osgood, Finnish saxophonist Mikko Innanen and Pakistani singer Fawzia Afzal Khan.

Ray McNamara grew up the Chicago and began exploring rhythm at an early age, and went on to earn degrees from Northern Illinois University and CalArts School. With his own group, the “Calypso Pirates”, Ray has toured the U.S., Caribbean, and Japan.

His film credits include; “Indian Runner” directed by Sean Penn, “The Devil’s Rejects” by Rob Zombie, and the Grammy nominated score for Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” with Randy Newman. Ray has also recorded for television including; “The Roseanne Show”, “Who’s The Boss”, and “Going to Extremes”. He appears on recordings by Daniel Lentz, Harold Budd, Zadonu African Group, Lowen and Navarro, Susannah Blinkhoff, his groups, Damaru, The Calypso Pirates and Big Bamboo and as well as his own solo projects.