Eventually, Ellman grew out of his G-string-in-the-spotlight phase and began to take the actual music seriously. Soon he spun out of rock and into the giants of jazz: Ellington, Bird, Coltrane, Dolphy. He scarfed up a scholarship and multiple awards during his jazz studies at California State Sonoma, but never completely abandoned his pop-funk-rock roots. He worked for a long time with local hip-hoppers Midnight Voices, and that begat his CD debut, Orthodoxy, featuring turntablist DJ Pause and a few groovy backbeats peppered among the more conventional swing rhythms.
On that record, with Bay Area pianist and frequent bandmate Vijay Iyer (and, unfortunately, the saccharine Los Angeles B Sharp Jazz Quartet), Ellman's music defines next-generation West Coast Cool. Though the now 25-year-old guitarist's chill-toned melodic improvisations have more in common with (pre-Leno) Kevin Eubanks or the underrated Grant Green, jazz guitar great Wes Montgomery looms in the shadows of the blue notes, which, when heard by the light of a full moon, cast a strangely purple glow.
-- Sam Prestianni
Liberty Ellman celebrates the CD release of Orthodoxy on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 9 p.m. at the 330 Ritch club, 330 Ritch (at Townsend). Tickets are $5; call 522-9558.