Ellefson, Art

Art (Arthur Albert) Ellefson. Saxophonist, b Moose Jaw, Sask, 17 Apr 1932. A trumpet and euphonium player as a boy, he took up the tenor saxophone at 16 and began his career in Toronto with Bobby Gimby and others before moving to London in 1952. He played saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone) and clarinets in British dance bands, including the Vic Lewis Orchestra 1953-7, and was a soloist with the Ronnie Ross-Allan Ganley Jazzmakers (with whom he toured North America in 1959) and 1960-5 with the John Dankworth Orchestra. He was also a member of touring bands led in England by Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson.

Ellefson lived 1969-74 in Bermuda, then returned to Canada where he worked outside of music in various Ontario communities but played tenor saxophone with Nimmons 'N' Nine Plus Six until 1977 and appeared occasionally thereafter with his own groups in Toronto. In 1988 he moved to Courtenay, BC, teaching at Malaspina College in nearby Nanaimo and forming a quartet, Modus, that included his son Lee, a guitarist. Of Ellefson's tenor style, Jack Batten (Toronto Globe and Mail, 29 Sep 1976) wrote, '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'.


The Art Ellefson Trio. Leitch guitar, Young double-bass. 1981. CBC LM-479

The Art Ellefson Quartet Featuring Tommy Flanagan. Flanagan piano, Young double-bass, Elmes drums. 1985. Unisson DDA-1005

Ode to Modus. L. Ellefson guitar, Botten double-bass, Ursan drums. 1989 (cass)

Ellefson also appears on LPs by Woody Herman (Woody Herman and his Anglo-American Herd - 1959, Jazz Groove 004), Phil Nimmons and Kenny Wheeler; his British recordings with John Dankworth are listed in the Wheeler discography