An American jazz guitarist.
Perhaps best known for his 1950's membership in the trio of pianist Oscar Peterson, Ellis was also a staple of west-coast studio recording sessions, and was described by critic Scott Yannow as "an excellent bop-based guitarist with a slight country twang to his sound."
Born in Farmersville, Texas and raised in the suburbs of Dallas, Ellis first heard the electric guitar performed by George Barnes on a radio program.
In 1943, he joined Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra and it was with Gray's band that he got his first recognition in the jazz magazines. After Gray's band, Ellis joined the Jimmy Dorsey band where he played some of his first recorded solos. Ellis remained with Dorsey through 1947.
Joining The Soft winds group:
The Soft Winds group was fashioned after the Nat King Cole Trio.
They stayed together until 1952. Ellis then joined the Oscar Peterson Trio (replacing Barney Kessel), forming what Scott Yanow would later on refer to as "one of the most memorable of all the piano, guitar, and bass trios in jazz history".
Ellis became prominent after performing with the Oscar Peterson Trio from 1953 to 1958 along with pianist Peterson and bassist Ray Brown.
With drummer Buddy Rich, they were also the backing band for popular "comeback" albums by the duet of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
Ellis left the Peterson Trio in November 1958, to be replaced not by a guitarist, but by drummer Ed Thigpen.
The years of 1959 through 1960 found Ellis touring with Ella Fitzgerald.
With fellow jazz guitarists Barney Kessel, Charlie Byrd and Tal Farlow, he created another ensemble, the Great Guitars.
Ellis died of Alzheimer's disease at his Los Angeles home on the morning of March 28, 2010, at the age of 88.
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