Friday, September 24, 2021

Remembering a great legend and friend: Pee Wee Ellis

Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, the musical giant who was Fred’s brother. since 1968, passed away yesterday, Sept. 23, after suffering a heart attack. “He was a great friend and a great mentor, and he taught me a a lot,” Fred said in the midst of his initial shock and grief. “Most of who I am I learned from him.”

As bandleader for James Brown before Fred, Ellis is considered one of the architects of funk, having co-written and arranged for Brown the landmark recordings “Cold Sweat” and “Say It Loud-I’m Black and I’m Proud.” The Ellis and Wesley families remained close and shared much love and laughter over the decades, through separate careers that briefly — magically — re-converged in the powerhouse band with Maceo Parker called the JB Horns in the 1990s. Since then Fred and Pee Wee frequently collaborated and played together. A gig at London’s Ronnie Scott’s featuring Fred as a guest had been scheduled for this month.

Please enjoy these scenes from recent years.

Pee Wee and Fred, photographed in Germany in 2013 by longtime friend and fan Heinrich Buttler.

With BBC music personality Craig Charles in London in 2016.

A lazy afternoon in London.

With Maceo Parker and Christian McBride at Pee Wee’s induction into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.

A lazier afternoon in upstate New York.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Hitting Brooklyn’s BRIC Jazz Fest Oct. 23!

Join us on October 23rd for the seventh annual BRIC JazzFest! This acclaimed three-day marathon Jazz festival will return to BRIC House in Brooklyn, NY this fall.
Visit to purchase tickets now! #BRICJazzFest

Monday, August 16, 2021

Heading to Philly with the New JBs!

Fred is overjoyed to be reuniting Aug. 21 with his band the New JBs at the People’s Poetry and Jazz Festival in Philadelphia. The Black Writers Museum’s “Philly Family Reunion” happens 12 noon to 8pm in historic Vernon Park, 5800 N. Germantown Ave. The legendary funk band Lakeside also will play, and Fred will be honored with the Living Legend Award and will sell and sign copies of his book, “Hit Me, Fred.” 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Offering guidance to a budding star

When Steve Haines’s student Julian Kennedy and his compadres in harmony made this spectacular showing on America’s Got Talent, the director of the Miles Davis Jazz Studies program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro immediately reached out to Fred. 

Earlier this month, Fred, a former adjunct professor in the program, made the drive to Greensboro from his home in South Carolina to offer some advice to the young piano and voice major and his mom about the music business. Trombone student Leroy Pridgen IV was able to get in on the action, too.

“I told him what to do, and what to not ever do,” quipped Fred, drawing on his own adventures and misadventures. He also gave him a copy of his memoir, Hit Me Fred: Recollections of a Sideman.

(l-r) Fred, Julian Kennedy, Leroy Pridgen IV, Steve Haines