Planet Jazz

Formed in the early 90s by drummer Johnny Ellis (b. 1955, Trenton, New Jersey, USA, d. 1999, USA), the band played regularly in New York City, often at Smalls, where it would continue through into the…
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Artist Biography

Formed in the early 90s by drummer Johnny Ellis (b. 1955, Trenton, New Jersey, USA, d. 1999, USA), the band played regularly in New York City, often at Smalls, where it would continue through into the mid-00s. Unusually for the time and place, the band chose to root itself musically in the late swing era period, drawing in particular from the ethos of music that had then been undergoing change to early bop. That said, the band’s repertoire was originally drawn largely from compositions by Ellis. Others in the band at the time were Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Grant Stewart (tenor saxophone), Spike Wilner (piano), Peter Bernstein (guitar), and Neil Miner (bass).

Ellis died in 1999, and the repertoire altered somewhat, now that no new works were coming from his pen. There was no faltering in the sextet’s rhythmic pulse, however, as Ellis’ replacement, Joe Strasser, ably slipped into the established groove. The band’s repertoire includes ‘Mommy, Mommy NO!’, ‘The Squirrel Is A Girl’, ‘Sonora’ (a Hampton Hawes piece), ‘Dual Highway’ (a bluesy Duke Ellington - Johnny Hodges composition), ‘Buttermoose’, ‘The Cow Is Now’, ‘The Lemur Is A Dreamer’ and ‘Dawn On The Desert’. Outside the sextet, Stewart has recorded albums under his own name including In The Still Of The Night, Grant Stewart + 4 and Tenor And Soul. (NB: Not to be confused with the German ambient dance act of the same name.)