Monday, Feb 14 2005 | 11:05

Detroit-based Jeremy Ellis moved to Puerto Rico to create an album marrying traditional Bomba and Plena rhythms with Detroit-schooled dance music. After three months, the keyboard maestro and golden-toned vocalist discovered that the living in Puerto Rico ain’t so easy. On his way home he lost two computers, all of his recordings, half of his recording advance, and his passport (and possibly part of his mind). Fortunately, Ellis returned in one piece with the musical knowledge and resolve to create “The Lotus Blooms,” an album of insatiable future funk grounded in Detroit and peppered with a Puerto-Rican persuasion.

From his retake on the traditional Puerto Rican song “Cortano A Elena” to the broken beat driven song “These Passing Days” the Puerto Rican influences vary in strength. Heavy Latin vibes can be found in “Bombakiss” and the montuno of the opening track “Take Your Time” (check also the harder remixed version which can be found as bonus cut #17). There is also plenty of room for more Detroit-styled outings. His near 10 minute epic “Callelunakarma” jumps from hip hop to broken to house to future jazz fusion and back to hip hop again while the track which gave birth to the album title “Lotusblooms” blurs the line between boogie-tune, house and broken beat.

“At one point I felt like I was being arrogant to try and learn everything about Puerto Rican music in just 2-3 months. But once I was back in Detroit the sound just naturally occurred, the influences and everything I’d learned came back to me,” explains Ellis. “The most striking event was the San Sebastian Street festival. I’ll never forget feeling the energy of thousands of people dancing together and seeing bomba groups making music as a direct interchange between dancer and musician,” he adds.

This is only the second album for Jeremy Ellis (his first for Ubiquity) and yet he has already appeared on albums, remixes, and tracks by Jazzanova, Roy Davis Jr, Carl Craig, John Beltran, John Arnold, Recloose and many more. Dropping down somewhere between Bugz In The Attic and Kerrier District, Jazzanova and Metro Area, Ellis balances jazz licks with Detroit bounce, future beats and classic soul.

In a small bedroom in a tough neighborhood on the northwest side of Detroit, with only a collection of vintage keyboards, an MPC sampler, and a microphone, Jeremy Ellis (aka Ayro) created “ElectronicLoveFunk,” his debut full-length album for Omoamusic. He wrote, produced, played, and sang nearly every note of every song on the independently released album. Blending soul, jazz, pop, rock and techno, Ellis sounded like a producer with three times his experience and access to three times as much equipment. Ellis’ one-man show capabilities are not limited to the studio – on-stage he has developed a unique, energetic, and infectious solo show that is the opposite of the one-man laptop bore. During performances he simultaneously triggers beats, programs percussion, plays keyboards, expertly looping and affecting his work. Energetically working every piece of machinery on stage, he seamlessly creates a live show by engineering tracks from scratch, mixing them into new songs, and remixing his and other peoples tunes. He has coined the term freestyle or freestyle electronic to describe this improvised clash of playing, programming, and singing.

“It was a natural evolution for me as I’m not a DJ and I wanted to make the next big step to make really live electronic music. Its difficult to cram so much music in and to sound fluid like a DJ set would, but that’s what the challenge of freestyle is about,” explains Ellis. “Previously I would create rough ideas in the week or two before the gig and explore them live on the night. From the Omoa Christmas Party that I had to perform at in 2002 onwards, I’ve done it all freestyle – I’ve improved and tweeked the set so that I can flow freely from track to track and really make it live. To do this I’ve moved drum sounds into easier places to play off the MPC, and then I’ve organized keyboard sounds so I can access stuff off of my Waldorf microQ,” he explains. “I’ve realized that the process needs to be as fluid and intuitive as possible because that is what allows me to interact with the gear and also the audience,” he adds.

Ellis’ reputation as an amazing live performer coupled with the music released to date convinced Ubiquity Records to sign him for a new album to be released in late February 2005. His Omoa music releases saw underground support, his break through occurring in 2001 with the 12″ club anthem, “Let This.” Gospel-inspired vocals, dexterous keyboard playing, and dirty rhythms signaled the birth of a new Detroit electronic soul performer. The song turned the heads of selectors worldwide and ended up on numerous compilations, including Gilles Peterson’s GP02, Dixon’s Off Limits 3, and Alex Attias’ Selector Series. Good 12s create remix work for producers and so it followed that Jazzanova, Fertile Ground, and John Beltran, John Arnold, and others came calling. His Jazzanova mix pushed the limits when Ellis wrote and performed new lyrics to the existing track adding his gritty Detroit remix flavor. Unfortunately, the “ElectronicLoveFunk” album suffered from poor promotion and a lack of proper distribution. Rather than wallow in the obscurity that cloaks many Detroit producers, Ellis has stepped out with “The Lotus Blooms.” It’s a focused album backed with a kicking live show and a label anxious to spread the word.

Studying classical and jazz piano, plus percussion through his youth, Ellis became well-known in the Detroit jazz and electronic music circles by playing with renowned jazz/fusion group Jazzhead (alongside current Ubiquity label mate John Arnold), touring around the world with live electronic group Time:Space, and lending his keyboard skills to legendary Detroit producers such as Carl Craig, Alton Miller, Recloose, John Beltran and others. Artists as varied as Bach and Chopin, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, the Beatles and U2, are his main influences. He’s an extremely curious musician always delving into new styles and picking up new tricks as he goes.

The list of Jeremy Ellis live performances includes show at the Detroit Electronic Music festival in 2001 and 2003, playing with Jazzanova and Koop, headlining with Kyoto Jazz Massive in Tokyo, rocking all-night block parties on the streets of Puerto Rico and kicking off the Ubiquity /P uma SoundClash series in San Francisco.

“Pure class from one of the Detroit new school on the always excellent” Keep On Magazine

“The space funk bebop is alive and kicking.” Mark De Clive-Lowe

“The Jeremy Ellis shit is butterfunk and latin soul that makes me smile. Waiting for more of Ayro’s genius.” J. Boogie (OM)

The album Jeremy EllisLotus Blooms” (Ubiquity) is going to be released February 21, 2005.

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