Concert to feature jazz, blues

Saxophonist Raiff Ellis, and his band the Jazz/Blues Infusion, along with vocalist Jon Kohler, will perform at Center Street Arts in Conyers on Nov. 3.

Saxophonist Raiff Ellis, and his band the Jazz/Blues Infusion, along with vocalist Jon Kohler, will perform at Center Street Arts in Conyers on Nov. 3.

Saxophonist and bandleader Raiff Ellis is putting all his cards on the table for his upcoming performance at Center Street Arts in Olde Town Conyers.

Ellis and his band, Jazz/Blues Infusion, will host a concert titled "Herbie Hancock meets The Blues Brothers," which leaves little to the imagination in terms of what listeners can expect.

"We'll do some blues and modern funk and we'll throw in a few originals," said Ellis, a longtime Atlanta-area musician who lives in nearby Lithonia. "And we've got to play some Herbie Hancock. And we'll throw in some standard jazz, but it will be contemporary, not old-fogey stuff."

The Blues Brothers end of the program will be ably handled by Ellis' old friend Jon Kohler, an actor and vocalist who bears a passing resemblance to the late John "Jake Blues" Belushi. Kohler, who has appeared in a host of film and television productions -- including "In the Heat of the Night," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "I'll Fly Away" -- is likely to steal the show with his onstage antics, Ellis said.

"Kohler is the show," Ellis said. "He's the star ... He's got a great voice and he splits his time between Atlanta and New York City. We met at Emory a long time ago -- we've known each other since our college days. He's a great guy.

"I was going to play in a band with Jon years ago, but I was already in two other bands at the time and couldn't make it work with my schedule. I haven't played with him much, although I know him pretty well. It's interesting that after all these years we're coming together. He's pretty busy with his film work and until recently he wasn't working with a band because his schedule was too chaotic."

Ellis added that the Blues Brothers repertoire is "right up my alley" as he grew up on the Mississippi Delta jamming with legendary trombonist Tom "Bones" Malone, who, in addition to his membership in the Blues Brothers band, played in the house bands on "Late Night with David Letterman" and "Saturday Night Live."

In fact, Ellis and his band -- which includes Darrell Jefferson (trombone), Leland Davis (keyboards), Omar Martinez (drums) and Steve Blair (bass) -- will use Malone's old brass arrangements for the Blues Brothers tunes.

"Jon will also probably do some George Benson, Erroll Garner and Frank Sinatra," Ellis said. "Jon's quite a showman."

Although this collection of players will perform for the first time together in Conyers, Ellis said he hopes to schedule more dates with this incarnation of Blues/Jazz Infusion.

"I think we're planning on taking this to other venues," he said. "There are only certain types of venues where you can have a big brass section. For one thing, it's loud and it's more people than a small club likes to pay. But we're planning on doing that."

Ellis and his band played in Conyers last August at Center Street Arts and he recalled it was a successful engagement.

"It was fantastic," he said. "The house was packed and the audience was very enthusiastic. They applauded every solo. There were even a few people who got up and danced. It was a very well-received night."

Ellis added that he's releasing an album of Christmas tunes called "A Jazzy, Saxy Christmas" and hopes to have copies for sale at the Olde Town concert.

"I finished it last Christmas and have sold it informally since then," he said. "Those who have heard it really like it. It's upbeat. It's not terribly sophisticated but it's not corny. I'm not showing off my technique -- I'm just focusing on a joyous emotional feeling with the sax. It's not like Kenny G -- I'm using the sax to enhance that joyous holiday feeling."