Multi-talented Jazz Artist: Innovative Saxophone Player Ellery Eskelin

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

Multi-talented jazz artist Ellery Eskelin, born on August 16, 1959, in Wichita, Kansas, got into jazz because his mom rocked the organ as a pro musician.

After doing the local band scene, Eskelin signed up in ’77 to learn classical saxophone with Joseph Briscuso. He also picked up some flute and clarinet vibes from the crew at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Before you know it, he was jazzing it up and became a key player in the Towson State Jazz Ensemble, with Hank Levy at the helm.

Multi-talented Jazz Artist and Innovative Saxophone Player

Fast forward to ’81, and Eskelin grabbed a degree in Music Performance. By ’83, he’d set up shop in New York, continuing his sax studies with George Coleman and David Liebman. In ’87, he teamed up with big-shot trumpeter Paul Smoker and bass boss Drew Gress for the “Joint Venture” album.

Late ’80s, he hit up Europe for a tour and jammed out with the jazz maestro Phil Haynes and his crew, “4 Horn & What?”

Ellery’s Solo Gig

Eskelin’s solo journey kicked off in ’88 with the help of Drew Gress and Phil Haynes. They formed a trio and dropped “Setting The Standard” under the Cadence Jazz label, followed by “Forms” in ’90 under the Open Mind label.

Youtube video by Stadtgarten Koeln 

Mixing It Up

Multi-talented jazz artist Eskelin always brought the fresh when forming groups, throwing in oddball instruments and messing with standard rhythm sections to spice up his music.

Read also American Smooth Jazz Sax Player Everette Harp

In ’94, he, Andrea Parkins on accordion and sampler, and Jim Black on percussion and drums, formed a trio. Their first jam, “Jazz Trash,” hit the scene in ’95 under the Songline label, and people loved the fresh concept.

Keeping It Real

The trio dropped more albums on the indie hotshot label hatOLOGY. “Five Other Pieces (+2)” in ’88 got the nod with an “Excellent” tag from DownBeat Magazine. Eskelin’s skills got noticed, and in ’88, he scored the title of “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition” in the 46th Annual Critics Poll by Down Beat mag.

His DIY solo saxophone album, “Premonition,” is now a treasure hunt for collectors.

High Fives and Awards

Multi-talented jazz artist Eskelin’s got a bunch of recordings as a top dog and co-pilot, getting shoutouts in Critics’ Polls by The New York Times, The Village Voice, and big jazz mags in the US and beyond. DownBeat put Eskelin in the “25 Young Stars for the Future” in the January 2000 edition.

In ’03, he was up for the Danish Jazzpar Award, scored the Chamber Music America French-American Exchange Grant in ’07 and ’14, and got the Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Award in ’09.

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