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November 19, 1999 2:19 AM
Hazell, Kell to team up this weekend
By Michael McCarty, Correspondent , Moline Dispatch, Moline, Illinois

Ellis Kell and Patrick Hazell are two of the most respected musicians in the Quad-Cities music scene. Both of them are veteran performers who have played on countless local stages. This weekend, they'll be on the same stage, putting on a show at Rascals.
Recently, the pair got together with The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus to talk about their careers and their collaboration.

QUESTION: How did you two hook up in the first place?
HAZELL: I can't remember the specifics. I have known Ellis for a few years and been in contact with him regarding some projects, one being a possible recording session in which we would record a Gene Autry song he turned me on to, "The Mississippi Valley Blues," which is now in my repertoire. Also, we'd record Ellis' own song about Maxwell Street in Chicago. Well, the recording session has yet to happen, but in talking about it we decided to play a few gigs together and a couple of years back (1997) we played at Rascals. We also played several Mississippi Valley Blues Society Pub Crawls at the Radisson in Davenport.

KELL: We met 10 years ago or so through the blues fest, and I attended many of his solo performances. I watched Pat bring a rain-drenched crowd together under the tent at the '93 blues fest in Mt. Joy, and it was like a revival meeting. Pat had the audience in the palm of his hand, surrounding him at the piano, and he just kept on playing as the rain came down in buckets around the tent. It was one of those magical blues fest moments that I'll never forget, and it sums up what Patrick Hazell is all about.

QUESTION: What do you like about working together?

HAZELL: Ellis is into the music and a strong supporter of local and regional music. He has a professional approach to presenting the music that is often lacking in other musicians and I appreciate that. As far as actual playing goes, with each performance the music has gotten better as we become more familiar with each other's style and approach to music. We're really getting into some nice grooves and musical interplay.

KELL: Pat stretches the envelope of the blues with his improvisation, often heading off into a jazz mode or some avant garde progression. He challenges you as a player to open up, stretch out and play what you feel. He also is very
close to his audience, and would much rather set up right in amongst them on the floor than up on a stage. He makes each audience member feel like he's playing just for them, and maintains constant eye contact.

QUESTION: How do you guys decide on what material to do?

KELL: To be perfectly honest, we play it by ear each time, although we've come up with sort of an internal list of his standards and a few of my favorites to do. We just do what feels right with the crowd, the room, and the mood of the moment.

QUESTION: You've both opened for a lot of rock and blues bands. Who were your favorites to play with and why?

HAZELL: Willie Dixon was good to play with -- he was straight ahead music, one song after another with no grandstand showbiz crap.

KELL: The ultimate honor, as a blues band, had to be two occasions we had to work with the legendary B.B. King. He is truly "the king of the blues," but moreover a wonderful human being who plays every note from the heart.

QUESTION: What can we expect next from you guys?

HAZELL: I am going to be taking over a more active role in running the Blues Shop in Burlington, as well as my usual touring schedule. I have tons of unreleased recordings I am starting to put into albums, plus scores of original tunes I need to start performing live. So, I'm going to be working on much of this over the next four or five months.

KELL: We (The Ellis Kell Band) are working to finish our second CD at Brass Sail Recording, and hope to have the tracks finished up by the end of November. We had hoped to release the new recording before the holidays, but scheduling conflicts have made that impossible.

Copyright 1998, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.