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Mandolin

The first instrument I learned to play was the guitar and while it is still the instrument I play most of the time, I can never put the mandolin down for long.  There is a very special quality to what it can do.

My first mandolin was an old “A” style Gibson which I found at Richard Beck’s guitar shop in Tempe, Arizona.  It made such a beautiful sound, one that captured my imagination.  I was already intrigued by the sound of the instrument through the recordings and music of David Grisman.   During my first year in college I was fortunate to play with mandolinist Tom Rozum, who was a generous source of information and already a very accomplished musician, so I felt that when the time was right, I would be playing one.

At first I seldom had much time for the mandolin, but it was spark waiting to catch and the fire caught when I went to Europe in 1990.  The mandolin is very portable, it fits in with many musical situations and it’s a joy to play.  The streets of Bologna, Italy, with its many porticos were my favorites.  By the time I arrived there I was getting a hang of the fret board and the right hand tremolo technique.  In a sense, my playing was coming together at the same time I was in this incredible acoustic and scenic environment.

Returning to San Francisco a year later I began to play mandolin in an acoustic group called “The Vidalias”.  The music crossed several genres and it was a unique band in that each member wrote music or songs for the band.

After we went our own ways, I soon found myself participating in Basque events throughout California and elsewhere in the West.  I performed with the women’s choir “Eskual Giroa”, with Jean Flesher and his groups, as well with visiting groups from the Basque region.

Since moving to the East Coast I have played mandolin with several singer-songwriters including Scott E. Moore, Jessica Owen, Meryl McCusker and Myrna Marcarian Mincey, as well as performing mandola with the Bloomfield Mandolin Orchestra and a special concert with the Orchestra Dell’Accademia Internazionale di Mandolino featuring Carlo Aonzo.

I’ve been fortunate to participate in Karl Berger’s Improvisers Orchestra since July of 2011.  He is a brilliant improviser, conductor, composer and arranger.  The mandolin adds a very unique color to this community of instrumentalists.

I have conducted workshops at the Maiden Creek Old Time Music Festival in Pennsylvania and performed at the Claremont Folk Festival in California, at the Jai Aldi Festival in Boise, Idaho and at the New York City Museum’s Basque Cultural Event.
John Ehlis – mandolin

Thomas Heberer – cornet

Mikko Innanen – alto sax

Yasuno Katsuki – euphonium

Scott E. Moore – guitar

Benny Koonyevksy – xylophone

Glen Fittin – riqq

                                                                                                                                                 Wax cylinder recording at the

Thomas Edison Museum – June 2013

 

 

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John Ehlis & Glen Fittin

We began our collaboration in 2003 and have worked together as a duo and in multiple settings, including performances as a trio with saxophonists John Tchicai, Joseph Jarman, Oliver Lake and Erik Lawrence.

Combining a variety of instruments, sounds and rhythms, the Ehlis/Fittin Duo performs a captivating stream of original music, traditional melodies from several cultures and dynamic rhythms from around the world.

During performances, their spontaneity and willingness to take chances gives           a sense that something new and fascinating will be discovered.  As a duo, their communication and interplay is very clear and immediate.

In addition Ehlis has performed at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in a duet performance with the Danish drummer Kresten Osgood and in a Trio at Vision Festival XV in New York with saxophonist Joseph Jarman, (Art Ensemble of Chicago), and drummer Rob Garcia.

IMG_4826 hand:drum web

Glen Fittin has focused on world percussion sounds for the last 25 years.  Specializing in frame drums, he has presented percussion workshops at national and international festivals demonstrating a variety of techniques and traditions.

Fittin has performed and recorded with Glen Velez, Bernie Worrell, Montego Joe, Paul Winter, Annea Lockwood, Dez Cadena, Richard Barone, Tony Visconti, Valerie Naranjo, Women of the Calabash, The Rhythm Monsters, Marafanyi, Mbiradinda, Carl Landa, Shamou, Peter Jones, Jesse Manno and Tigger Benford among others.

 

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Bio

Combining jazz sensibilities with several World Music traditions, Ehlis gathers a group of talented and like-minded musicians who share a spirit of adventure and playfulness.  Each musician adds a distinctive voice, breadth of talent and experience to create a one-of-a kind performances each and every time.

Drawn to traditional and folk music from around the world, Ehlis blends the sounds of many cultures into his own unique style.  As a multi-instrumentalist, he 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 and performed with Motsi Uruka at the Amakhosi Theatre in Bulawayo.  He also performs and studies the music of the Basques.

Ehlis has performed with musicians ranging from the avant-garde of jazz including John Tchicai, Oliver Lake, Joseph Jarman, Karl Berger, Perry Robinson, and Francis Wong, to vocalists Marie Afonso, Loire Cotler, the instrument maker Ken Butler, mandolinist Joe Craven, classical guitarist Philip Hii, world music pioneer Sylvain Leroux, frame drum master Glen Velez, Slovakian poet Gabriel Ariel Levicky, Russian painter Andrey Tamarchenko, dancer Charmaine Warren, tap dancer Jon Luks, singer-songwriters Scott E. Moore, Jessica Owen, Argentine guitarists Juan Falu, Quique Sinesi, Basque musicians Kepa Junkera, Tapia and Leturria, Ghanian musician Zorkie Nelson, Danish drummer Kresten Osgood, Finnish saxophonist Mikko Innanen, Argentine guitarist Quique Sinesi, and Pakistani singer Fawzia Afzal Khan.

He can also be heard with vocalist Olivia Foschi, pianist/composer Elizabeth Woodbury-Kasius (Heard), in Trio EWM along with saxophonist Tony White and percussionist Ray McNamara, and with the Sense of Values Quartet.

It was in San Francisco during the 1990’s where Ehlis fully embraced composing and performing original works contributing to the flourishing and diverse music scene of the time. Percussionist Horacio Altan and guitarist David Lofton were frequent and inspiring collaborators during this period of transition.

Guitarist, mandolinist and multi-instrumentalist John Ehlis is a composer and band leader living in the New York area.

“…especially adept at bright singing guitar solos…”   John Sharpe: All About Jazz

“Owing as much to various world music traditions as to jazz, Ehlis’s typically ruminating and occasionally explosive music is an original global fusion, steeped in the multikulti aesthetic of late trumpeter Don Cherry.”   Derk Richardson: SF Bay Guardian

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Recordings

John Ehlis

In This Lifetime  (2015)

1    Miniature No. 9
2    Ornette
3    Point In
4    Unity Works
5    Water Hawk
6    Season of the Clay Rustlers
7    When We Come Back
8    Shine
9    Lotus Days
10  Soundbox
11  Dream of the Canary
12  East of the Viewing Fields
13  Land Carvings

John Ehlis     acoustic guitar, mandolin & bamboo flute
Sylvain Leroux     flute, tambin & chromatic tambin
Sana Nagano    violin & voice
Eloisa Manera     violin
Amalia Lopez Chueca      cello
Mikko Innanen     alto & baritone saxophones
Yasuno Katsuki     euphonium
Karl Berger     piano & vibraphone
Max Johnson     bass
Kresten Osgood     drums
Chris White III     drums & percussion
Glen Fittin     percussion

 

 

JEE "Along the Way" cover

John Ehlis Ensemble

Along the Way  (2012)

1    Mayan Canoe
2    Turning East
3    Five Moving Up
4    Shadow Chasing
5    Multicolored Bridge
6    Mbira Chant
7    Flying Hills
8    DC
9    Dixon Line
10  New Ballad
11  African Trains
12  Krysta

John Ehlis     acoustic guitar
Mazz Swift     violin
Rob Henke     trumpet
Erik Lawrence     alto & soprano saxophones
John Tchicai      tenor saxophone
Matt McDonald     electric guitar
David Phillips     acoustic bass
Benny Koonyevksy     drums
Hector Morales     drums & percussion
Glen Fittin     percussion
Chris White III     percussion

 

 

JEE-sancarlos-300x300John Ehlis Ensemble

San Carlos  (2002)

1    Sana, Sana
2    Cosmic Soup
3    Escuintla
4    Flap Jacket
5    D.C.
6    Sana Mañana
7    Sana de la Noche
8    Path of Hope
9    Thumbalina
10  The Whistler

John Ehlis     acoustic & electric guitars, mbira, ocarina & percussion
Denise Fraga     voice
Jon Birdsong     cornet, alto horn, bamboo flute & percussion
John Tchicai     tenor saxophone, bass ocarina & voice
David Lofton     electric guitar & guitar synthesizer
Chuck Ehlis     electric bass, slide guitar & thwackoleum,
Dave Mihaly      drums, percussion & clay flute
Horacio Altan     percussion, ocarina & voice
Ray McNamara      percussion

 

 

CDcoverJohn Ehlis Ensemble   (1996)

1    Scene One
2    Hand Signals
3    Miss Dolores
4    Bird Boy
5    Malinyea
6    Yes, I Know
7    Day into Night
8    Anfora
9    Meeting on the Dot

John Ehlis     electric guitar
Markus Hawkins    violin & voice
John Tchicai    tenor & soprano saxophones
Mark Wyman        piano
David Lofton    electric guitar
Derek Jones    bass
Jeremy Brooks    drums
Aaron Johnston    percussion

 

Recordings available via CD Baby, iTunes, Band Camp, and Amazon.

www.sivacrecords.com

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Workshops

4The fundamental nature of these programs is to engage the students and participants in the creative process.

As creative musicians, we never cease to learn and to grow.  It is a journey which involves curiosity, determination and discipline.

In these workshops the students discover new ideas for developing their own voice and improving their skills.  By nurturing their own creative concepts they can only become better at what they do and gain a deeper appreciation for the arts and longer lasting satisfaction from their efforts.

Whether in solo presentation or with fellow artists such as Glen Fittin, John Tchicai or Karl Berger, I strive for the moments when a particular student or a group of students express with their own voice what they truly feel.

These programs may serve as an introduction to less experienced students, thus becoming an effective launching point for their ideas.  More accomplished music students have an opportunity to combine their comprehension of new musical ideas with their skills of expression.

In the assembly programs students experience the adventure of improvised music and discover how melody, harmony and rhythm may be used to develop musical ideas.  More in depth and hands on exploration occurs during the workshop sessions.

Inspiration is a compelling force for creative action.  By embracing our own experiences we can share our own story through whatever medium we choose, whether it be in music, poetry or any of the arts.

It is simply a matter of keeping an open mind and following an idea.

 

3727 wassembly 21212

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John Ehlis Trio

This group of musicians is exceptional, but it is not your typical trio.

This trio is not defined by a set instrumentation, yet the results are completely satisfying.  The essence of its success arises from the artistry each musician contributes towards revealing the true spirit of the music.  This concept creates a fresh and inviting sound every time and offers a delightful twist from the norm.

This music is eclectic, original and multi-dimensional.

 

 

The trio itself may feature a saxophonist, trumpet player, violinist or cellist as the primary melodic instrument.  Complimented by the guitar and percussion, the concepts of melody, harmony and rhythm are skillfully realized in the hands of each artist.

With an already wide range of colors and sounds, the sonic possibilities of the trio are further expanded by the multi-instrumental expertise of each player.

In this environment Ehlis stretches out, adding mandolin, bamboo flutes and a variety of small percussion instruments to the soundscape. The repertoire of music covers a spectrum of original compositions, traditional music, improvisations, often including music by artists such as Don Cherry or Hermeto Pascoal.

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