Liberty Ellman

“A terrific guitarist, Ellman plays with a rhythmic charge and a decisive touch.”
-Gary Giddins – The Village Voice
“I really liked it. I need to check this guy out! 5 stars.”
-Bill Frisell, Blindfold test
– Down Beat

“He’s got one of the contemporary scene’s most singular approaches to the modern guitar lingo.”
-Jim Macnie – The Village Voice

“Orthodoxy is an incandescent dream.”
-San Francisco Bay Guardian

“One of the pleasures I get out of reviewing music is the occasional surprise that results from hearing a new voice that has originality. Ellman certainly fits that bill. ”

“Talk about a talent deserving wider recognition.”
-All About


Selected Discography:
Liberty Ellman Tactiles
Liberty Ellman Orthodoxy
Henry Threadgill Up Popped The Two Lips
Vijay Iyer Memorophilia
Vijay Iyer Archetextures

Guitarist, composer, and bandleader Liberty Ellman was born in London in 1971, and raised in both New York and the San Francisco Bay-Area. A child of a musical family, Liberty had his first guitar at age 5, and had developed an early fascination with the drums due to his fathers practicing in their Greene St. loft. By age 13 Liberty began to realize the treasures of his mother’s LP collection, discovering John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Robert Johnson, and Jimi Hendrix, fueling his growing passion for music and improvisation.

While earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Performance from the California State University at Sonoma, Liberty lived in Oakland in order to be near the work and his musical colleagues with whom he gigged steadily. During this period Liberty began his association with pianist Vijay Iyer, and started composing for his own groups. After finishing school, Liberty joined up with the Tony award winning musical theater company the San Francisco Mime Troupe, touring internationally as a multi-instrumentalist and collaborating/composing for 10 original productions of edgy political satire. (No, the Mime Troupe does not perform Pantomome.)

Before returning to New York in 1998, Liberty had recorded three albums with Mr. Iyer, performed with Hip-Hop groups Midnight Voices and the Coup, performed and recorded with innovative koto artist Miya Masaoka, scored the 30th anniversary production of Sam Sheppard’s “True West” at the Magic Theater, started his own label, Red Giant Records, and released his acclaimed debut CD, “ORTHODOXY”, and had the privilege of working with alto saxophonist Steve Coleman in his first incarnation of the Mystic Rhythm Society.

Moving back to New York, Liberty quickly put together a working trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Derrek Phillips, who also relocated from the Bay-Area. In April 2000 Liberty had the honor of backing up Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie in a celebration of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Around that time he became involved in projects with alto saxophonists Rudresh Mahanthappa and Greg Osby, and in September 2000 Henry Threadgill recruited Liberty for his new group ZOOID, documented on the album “Up Popped The Two Lips” (Pi Recordings.) In October 2001 Liberty started working with Lawrence “Butch” Morris’ NY Skyscraper Orchestra. In June 2003 Liberty performed and recorded with poet/rapper Mike Ladd and Vijay Iyer’s “In What Language” project, which will be released in October Õ03 as a CD on the Pi label. Returning to theater in August 2003, Mr. Ellman wrote a score for the stage adaptation of Barbara EhrenreichÕs bestseller, “Nickel And Dimed”, for a TheatreWorks / Brava Theater Center co-production, for runs in Palo Alto and San Francisco. Liberty can also be seen with downtown notables such as Steven Bernstein and Mat Maneri.

Ellman is influenced by an array of guitar greats: Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Ali Farka Toure, and Jimi Hendrix, among others. His greatest musical inspiration comes from conceptual innovators, true artists like Monk, Miles, Bartók, or Björk, who search for themselves in their music, and find beautiful ways to prove their progress. Ultimately, Ellman seeks to broaden the already deep musical and social history of his instrument with an evocation of the creative streams of his generation. LibertyÕs newest CD, “TACTILES”, will be released on the Pi label, on October 21. The album features Greg Osby on alto saxophone, Mark Shim on tenor saxophone, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Eric Harland, playing nine of LibertyÕs most recent compositions.