He might not be as famous as the legends he's played with, but veteran saxman Pee Wee Ellis gets credit for being one of the primary architects of James Brown's brand new bag. As Brown's musical director in the late '60s, Ellis helped coin the emerging language of funk, whittling down R&B's soulful arrangements to the syncopated, on-the-one jackhammer sound that became the Godfather's signature. Ellis penned hits like "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" and "Popcorn" before heading off on his own in 1969. The Bradenton, Florida-born muso went on to play with his own solo bands throughout the '70s; he also wrote and arranged charts on several Van Morrison albums during the '80s, further smoothing out his style into what he today calls "smunk." But when Ellis takes the stage with the Latin-flavored chocolaté sexual of Miami's own Spam Allstars, expect the smunk to get crunk, and be ready to shake the junk in your trunk.
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Pee Wee Ellis and the Spam Allstars play at 10 p.m. Thursday, January 12, at Hoy Como Ayer, 2212 SW Eighth St., Miami. Tickets cost $7. Call 305-541-2631. They play again at 9:30 p.m. Friday, January 13, at the Bamboo Room, 25 S. "J" St., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $22. Call 561-585-BLUE.