Lisle Ellis Sucker Punch Requiem: A Homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat

The amount of pop culture reverence for influential visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work is astounding. Biographies, movies, reprints of Basquiat’s paintings and more are easy to find. Musical reflections are a little harder. Bassist Lisle Ellis’s recent release, Sucker Punch Requiem: A Homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, fills this vacuum with an electro-acoustic jazz piece inspired by Basquiat’s art. Recorded with an ensemble of renowned players, Ellis’s compositions thematically mirror Basquiat’s creative arc. These 16 tracks have a subtle ebb and flow dynamic, moving from transitory electronics bits to longer jazz passages. But deeper listens to Sucker Punch Requiem reveal Ellis scoring more free jazz overall, furthering the connections to Basquiat’s abstract painting style. Trombonist George Lewis and saxophonist Oliver Lake follow suit, with improvised brass exchanges, particularly on "Las Pulgas (Repelling Ghosts)” and "For Blues and Other Spells.” As well, Susie Ibarra’s open-ended drumming merges well with the album’s moods, rather than its grooves. Ultimately, Ellis and his collaborators succeed in making this music an engaging listen on its own. But there are so many references to the source material that it begs to be experienced as a multi-media affair. Perhaps as you view his 1983 work, The Horn Player, or peruse Phoebe Hoban’s sharp Basquiat biography, A Quick Killing In Art. (Henceforth)