Mike Ellis/Bahia Band

The Bahia Band is a project that developed after visiting Salvador (Bahia) Brazil several times during the recording and mixing of the Speak in Tones “Subaro” project (2003-2004). I fell in love with it’s people and it’s music. I have now come to make it one of my homes. This band is basically a continuation of what I’ve been doing along with artists like Graham Haynes, Brice Wassy, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Antoine Roney, Steve Coleman, Lonnie Plaxico, Santi DiBriano, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Roy Hardgrove, Wallace Roney, Leon Parker, Sam Newsome, Cassandra Wilson, Gino Sitson, Elizabeth Kotomonou, Daniel Moreno and Jorge Amorim for more than 10 years now, which is something I like to call “World Jazz”. This is by no means a new concept, groups and artists like Weather Report, Mwandishi, Codona*, Hermeto Pascoal, Okay Temiz, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri, Jerry Gonzalez, Jack DeJohnette, the Miles Davis electric bands and many more have preceded us and loom over us as huge influences and a continuous source of inspiration; they were the true innovators. Everybody talks about “World” music these days which can mean anything from Siberian throat singing to Afro-Brazilian music and everything in between; what it means to me is universal musical folklore conciousness.

“Jazz” is a word which in my opinion fundamentally means improvisation, and more specifically improvisation stemming from the Afro-American tradition. There are of course other great improvisational traditions, such as Flamenco, and Indian music. I claim all of the above and much more as my influences.

Every combination of influences leads to new aural textures and flavors, and thus a seemingly limitless realm of “multi-kulti”** possibilities opens up to us, allowing everyone an original voice. “World Jazz” is not so much a tradition in and of itself, but rather a genre that is defined by the melding of an arbitrary diversity of musical traditions with the world of improvisation.

Aestetically speaking percussion is an integral and equal part of the music along with melody and harmony, and not just ornamentation or background. There is of course a distinct organic “Bahiano” flavor to this project due to the 4 piece percussion section in addition to the drums and the fact that all the musicians are from Salvador. I have chosen to use 2 electric guitars as opposed to keyboards on this project to emphasize once again the organic and rhythmic aspects of the music.

Ensemble wise I would say that the horns are the icing on the cake, punctuating the music with strong solo statements and simple thematic material.

Thanks and praise go to multi-instrumentalist/composer Bira Reis, who introduced me to all the musicians in town, and who contributed greatly both musically and conceptually to this project, and to Jorge Amorim who put his heart, time and wonderfull compositional ability into the project; Mou and Jorge Brasil’s on going encouragement have been crucial to the band’s developement.

- Mike Ellis

*Codona stands for Colin Walcott, Don Cherry, and Nana Vasconcelos
** An expression coined by Don Cherry meaning multi-cultural.