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Art Ellefson

Last updated on September 2, 2021


  • Born: Apr 17, 1932

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From Wikipedia:

Arthur Albert Ellefson (17 April 1932 – 2018) is a Canadian jazz saxophonist who worked in the UK during the 1950s and 1960s.


Having learned trumpet and euphonium as a boy, he began playing tenor saxophone at 16 and began his career with Bobby Gimby in Toronto. In 1952, he moved to London where he worked with Carl Barriteau, Allan Ganley, Harry Hayes, Ted Heath, Vic Lewis, and Ronnie Ross. In April 1959, he toured with Woody Herman’s Anglo-American Herd and with Maynard Ferguson. By the early 1960s, he had toured in the US with Vic Lewis and joined the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra. There was a period of freelance work (including, in October 1968 playing on the track “Savoy Truffle” by The Beatles), before Ellefson left the UK to live in Bermuda and then returned to Canada in 1974. There he played tenor saxophone with Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six for the next three years. In February 1976, he recorded with the Kenny Wheeler Quintet in Toronto. In the 1980s, he released two albums under his own name: The Art Ellefson Trio (1981) and The Art Ellefson Quartet featuring Tommy Flanagan. In 1988, he taught at Malaspina College. His quartet included Gary Williamson, Ian McDougall, and Dave Piltch.. In 1992, the album As if to Say, credited to Art Ellefson & Jazz Modus, was released on the Sackville label.

According to music writer Jack Batten “his sound seems a direct extension of the old masters… [Coleman] Hawkins and [Ben] Webster and Lucky Thompson, and so is his sing-song lyricism, but the drive and naked passion of his playing comes from later, more beboppy tenor men’. […]

In October 1968, Art Ellefson played saxophone on The Beatles’ “Savoy Truffle“, along with five other horn players.

The session men were playing really well – there’s nothing like a good brass section letting rip – and it sounded fantastic. But having got this really nice sound George turned to Ken Scott and said ‘Right, I want to distort it’. So I had to plug-up two high-gain amplifiers which overloaded and deliberately introduced a lot of distortion, completely tearing the sound to pieces and making it dirty. The musicians came up to the control room to listen to a playback and George said to them ‘Before you listen I’ve got to apologise for what I’ve done to your beautiful sound. Please forgive me – but it’s the way I want it!’ I don’t think they particularly enjoyed hearing their magnificent sound screwed up quite so much but they realised that this was what George wanted, and that it was their job to provide it.

Brian Gibson, technical engineer – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions”, Mark Lewisohn

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