Legendary Canadian guitarist and composer Roddy Ellias has always sought to express things in music that could not be expressed any other way. Beginning with improvising on his grandmother’s piano at the age of five, to the compelling melodies and harmonies he creates on the guitar, to composing an opera for puppets, music is a vital channel for his restless creativity. 

 

So when Roddy was looking for someone to collaborate with on a new project, he turned to his long-time musical friend and muse, the dynamic Juno award-winning vocalist, Kellylee Evans. Along with Petr Cancura (saxophone), Chris Pond (bass) and Jose Garcia (percussion), The Free Spirit Ensemble performs and records both original compositions and standards as you’ve never heard them. 

 

The group had only just formed when Covid put them on hold, yet the complicated feelings and emotions associated with the pandemic became the inspiration for the nine songs on their first album, Not This Room.

 

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Roddy Ellias - Acoustic Steel String Guitar
Kellylee Evans - Voice

Marc Copland - Piano

Justin Orok - Nylon String Guitar

Chris Pond - Bass

Jose Garcia - Percussion

Petr Cancura - Soprano & Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Mandolin
Guy Pelletier - Bass Flute, C Flute
Richard Page - Bass Clarinet
Pierre-Yves Martel - Viola da Gamba

When music transcends the notes, it connects our inner and our outer lives, and takes us to another place. It’s a place you’ll want to inhabit for a while, and Not This Room will get you there. These nine songs combine the unique melodic artistry of composer and guitarist Roddy Ellias with unforgettable lyrics by Canadian writer Sandra Nicholls. Sung by Juno award- winning vocalist Kellyee Evans, with the help of eight other musicians, the songs are a stirring testament to the power of creativity in the face of isolation, a musical light from the darkest days of the pandemic, a jazz-infused message of hope. 

 

Ellias is a composer whose work defies a simple definition, and his musical journey has taken him from his early roots in pop and R&B bands, to the improvised world of jazz, through African and other world beats all the way to the classical world, even writing an opera, and everything in between. The songs on this latest album move seamlessly through different moods and styles, echoing the shifting experience of the pandemic itself. From the simple folky power of Prayer to the hypnotic beat of The Street, from the haunting, melancholy lyricism of the title track, Not This Room, to the luminous harmonies of Draw Me a Circle, the songs on this album linger on long after you first hear them. 

 

This is not his first collaboration with Nicholls, an award-winning poet and novelist, but they consider it their most important, with songs they hope will connect people in a time of profound disconnection. In addition to Ellias and Evans, the album features New York pianist Marc Copland, Juno-winner Petr Cancura, Richard Page, Pierre-Yves Martel, Guy Pelletier, Justin Orok, Chris Pond and Jose Garcia. It was recorded in the beautiful ambient setting of Mackay United Church in Ottawa. 

"...evocative project of nearly unbearable beauty and fragility."

- Lesley Mitchell-Clarke,
The Whole Note, Feb. 2022