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LAUSD All-District Honor Band


Guitarist John Ellis, Tenor Saxophonist Tony White, Percussionist Ray McNamara
Releases Debut EP
Trio EWM

February 1, 2019

Associations of both a personal and professional nature can be fleeting and fickle.  Strong bonds of either camaraderie or convenience are formed for a time, then usually stretched thinner and eventually released, with the principals then free to make new friends and partners.  Yet there are always a few ties which remain unbroken through the course of one’s life with all its twists and loops.  John Ehlis and Tony White met in college more than two decades ago, and have since gone on to lead very different lives.  Ehlis moved to the East Coast but continued his journeys further abroad to Europe and Africa, absorbing the local music traditions everywhere he went, from mandolin to Balinese Gamelan.  White remained close to home in his native Los Angeles, becoming an educator and mentor to literally tens of thousands of young musicians as an arts administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Despite the distance, the two have remained close over the years, with Ehlis’ wanderlust bringing him time and again to the West Coast, always with a stop at the White residence for a reconnecting of musical thought and sound.  It was Ehlis who introduced White early on to the music of Ornette and Billy Higgings, and also to Michael Brecker, who would eventually become a friend and personal mentor to White.  Brecker, along with White’s other mentors, reedist Buddy Collette and bandleader Gerald Wilson, would shape White’s sound and philosophy, resulting in a unique approach to the saxophone, his sound soulfully centered yet open to the unknown.  Ehlis’ journeyman persona is evident through his guitar, seemingly somehow simultaneously audacious and convivial, with groove-oriented riffs which have their origins around the world, from Argentina to Zimbabwe.

Trio EWM is the beginning of the culmination of this extended artistic handshake.  Ehlis and White, teamed up with master percussionist Ray McNamara, another longtime associate of Ehlis who for years has had an extensive recording career in film and television in Hollywood.  The five pieces that comprise the EP are concise statements of rhythm and interplay, the three of them able to establish their own roles in the bass-less group, frolicking in the open spaces then coming together in unison or harmony, and at times playfully interrupting each other, finishing each others phrases like old friends do.

If there is any downside to this gem of an EP, it’s that it seems to be merely a tease of what could be with a full-length album.  Despite the years of conversation, there appears to be more dialogue to be had, and here’s hoping this offing by Trio EWM is only the first part of the next chapter of their novel relationship.

How L.A. Teens Became Regulars at one of the Great Jazzz Showcases

Kayson Capati had never been so nervous when he took his throne. This was the first time the 18-year-old drummer from Eagle Rock High School had ever played the Hollywood Bowl. He knew that the 19 other members of the All City Jazz Band would be depending on his rhythm.

All District Honor Band

This is the All District Honor Band warming up on “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. Kingdom Day Parade. It is nothing more powerful than hearing this band in person ramp up for performances!!!

The Tony White Project

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