James Brown's Bandleader Pee Wee Ellis Dies at 80

Tributes and condolences are sent to the leader of the funky band accompanying the late soul icon James Brown as the saxophonist passed away at the age of 80.

AceShowbiz - Soul legend James Brown's bandleader Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis has died.

The 80-year-old musician and arranger died on Thursday (23Sep21).

Born in Florida, he began playing professionally with jazz musicians like Ron Carter and Chuck Mangione in New York City when he was a teenager and studied under saxophonist Sonny Rollins.

He teamed up with James Brown in the early 1960s.

He also co-founded funk band Gotham, served as Van Morrison's arranger, and toured with drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Alec Dankworth, and percussionist Abass Dodoo.

Funk legend Bootsy Collins paid tribute to Ellis on Friday (24Sep21), writing, "He affected Funkateers all around the World with his silent genius and brilliant arrangements. R.I.P. our dear brother."

In a 2015 interview with ABC News, Ellis recalled how he began working with James Brown.

"A friend of mine, Waymon Reed, who played trumpet in the band, called me up, because James Brown needed a saxophone player," he opened up. "James Brown had seen me playing with my own group in Florida a couple of years before, so he knew of me. The rest is history."

He continued, "Being a jazz-head, I really wasn't that aware of James Brown when I joined the band, but my first night in the wings watching the show, which all new band members had to do, took my breath away. ... I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

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