21 December

Mobro Makes ’25 Best Jazz Albums of 2014′ by Wondering Sound

Posted in Press

To outsiders, jazz has the tendency to seem like an ossified genre — “serious” records for “serious” people, with anything significant having happened decades ago. If you needed any more proof that this thinking is absolutely ridiculous, this list is it. Here are 25 records from artists that are bold, brash, exciting and forward-thinking, unafraid of flirting with other genres, but reconfiguring them into something new and daring. The 25 Best Jazz Albums of 2014 represent the vanguard of contemporary music, pushing things forward one note at a time.

Read complete article here.

17 December

Mobro Recommended by Bird is the Worm

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The MOBRO 4000 was something of a joke.  Nightly news updates of the barge’s journey from New York to Belize were delivered tongue in cheek, and late-night hosts and comedians weaved the subject into their monologues.  It wasn’t so funny, however, to the ports where the barge attempted to dock.  Hauling trash from New York to a North Carolina landfill, the MOBRO 4000 was stopped from unloading its haul.  This became a habit, as the MOBRO searched for a place to deliver its trash, heading as far south as New Orleans on the U.S. mainland, before charting a course to Mexico and then all the way down to Belize before returning to New York, where it was finally able to dock and dispose of its load.

Read entire review here.

29 July

Wing Walker

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Hear interview here.

This week, I talk with saxophonist John Ellis and playwright Andy Bragen about their newest collaborative work titled Mobro. The Mobro 4000 was a trash barge that traveled internationally looking for a place to dump its contents. John and Andy used this as a jumping off point and wrote a 75 minute through-composed, narrative driven suite of music about the journey. They do their best to tell me how they define this ambitious project. We talk about how Andy uses the metaphors of trash and seagulls in these songs to tell a bigger story and why John decided to work with this many musicians. We find out that the processes of being a creative musician and creative playwright are not that different from each other. Finally, we try to get to the bottom of who actually named the Mobro 4000.

17 July

Jazz Weekly

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Read entire review here.

A musical suite inspired by a trash barge? OK, so it’s not exactly Billy Budd or The Marriage of Figaro, but what composer/saxist John Ellis and librettist Andy Bragen have done for this 75 minutes is to create a kind of modern day Odyssey, with the barge as a symbol for, well, you figure it out.

17 July

Jazz Da Gama

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Read entire review here.

If MOBRO the beautiful album from John Ellis and Andy Bragen is an allegorical story based on the near-apocryphal voyage of the Mobro 4000, it is as likely to sound like life itself, or sailing along with the flotsam and jetsam of life and allowing the transformative effects of such a journey to influence the end of the journey. It bears mention that an artist must balance the abstract with the concrete in order to become accessible to the listener both in terms of the fable as well as the intended meaning of the actual event. In actual fact, the music in this recording is closer to the event—as the song-titles reflect—than might seem at first. The music is much more angular and oblique in its metaphor and idiom, even though the words often go towards making the incident come alive for those who remember the original voyage of the barge, or for those who research the fateful story. Mr. Ellis and Mr. Bragen have inventively captured the essence of that voyage without being too crass about its mission. Even more inventively they relate this experience to the way life hands out its blessings and its curses. The creativity begins with the selection of four voices used in together or separately to colour he lyrics from a gorgeous palette of colours.

29 June

Mikiki

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Read entire review here.

20 June

Jazz Times

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John Ellis & Andy Bragen
Mobro

Parade Light

By Aidan Levy

Saxophonist John Ellis’ Mobro, a concept album in collaboration with librettist Andy Bragen, is a radical departure from his previous release, the contemporary postbop date It’s You I Like, but it never veers too far into avant-garde territory; it’s too melodically centered and plaintively lyrical, with personnel including vocalist Becca Stevens, trumpeter Shane Endsley and guitarist Mike Moreno straddling downtown, folk and straight-ahead sub-genres. Though it is a dense recording—by the third track, “Storm,” vocalist Miles Griffith unleashes ferocious, glottal vocal fry, and Ellis’ orchestration tilts towards Maria Schneider at her most discordant—it is often mellow. Ellis’ brand of chamber jazz stems more from narrative structure than third-stream polytonality. (more…)

10 June

Step Tempest

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“MOBRO” (Parade Light Records) is the story from 1987 of a barge filled with garbage from New York City, 6 million pounds garbage headed for North Carolina where those who were supposed to deal with decided not to accept it. The barge, known as MOBRO 4000, spent 5 months on the Atlantic Ocean, along the way rejected by 6 states and 3 foreign countries.

8 June

JazzWatch

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Hear interview here.

On today’s episode, we interview saxophone virtuoso, John Ellis, who has just released a long-form composition called, “Mobro” with writer Andy Bragen. In his honor, we profile some of the lesser-celebrated jazz saxophonists of the golden era – Gene Ammons, Stanley Turrentine and Eddie Harris.

28 May

Jazz Speaks

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Read entire interview here.

This Friday and Saturday evening, The Jazz Gallery will present two special performances ofMOBRO, a jazz oratorio from the saxophonist/composer John Ellis and the playwright Andy Bragen. The piece, just released on record, was commissioned by The Jazz Gallery in 2011, and takes its inspiration from the journey of the Mobro 4000, a garbage barge from New York that unsuccessfully tried to unload its unwanted cargo at various ports across the eastern seaboard in 1987. In the hands of Ellis and Bragen, the story is transformed into a moving drama that challenges our concept of the unwanted, whether human or material.