Brian Ellis – Quipu

Brian Ellis must be a very busy man. This album that we have here is a solo outing by the guitarist of Astra, where he plays everything on the album except the drumwork in three songs played by his Astra bandmate David Hurley.

Quipu (so called talking knots) were a kind of rope that were used in the Inca Empire to encode information. The necklaces have different length cords (from just a few up to 2000) that represented different numerical values, expressed in a base ten positional system. Ellis certainly had this in mind while he worked on Quipu.

Brian Ellis is a talented multi-instrumentalist whose talent actually exceeds the sixty minutes of musicianship given through the recording. The obviousness of this is reflected in the fact that it was both well organized and spontaneous at the same time. I may freely say that this album has a strong character, thus there is a omnipresent feeling of a personal seal in the listener’s subconsciousness. Not just employing variety of instruments, ranging from classic guitars, bass and drums to sitar, saxophone, trumpet and kalimba, speaks about the album’s improvisational level. The main characteristic of this recording is when you think it enters fusion jazz mode, there is a sudden break which leads into classic progressive rock.

Taking the elements of heavy fusion, with Quipu Brian Ellis pays the tribute to the electric era of Miles Davis’ work, reflecting in that way the mixture between Bitches Brew, Agharta, Pangaea or In a Silent Way. If Davis was the original initiator of fusion jazz, then John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra certainly defined the further flow of the mentioned style. And that’s exactly where Ellis heads in with Quipu, expressing his admirations to the sungenre’s leads, but also adding, as stated before, his character and personal seal. The ever growing list of influences spreads more when Ellis sucessfully invokes Tony Williams Lifetime’s Emergency era, Herbie Hancock’s M’wandishi and Headhunters and Soft Machine’s Three to Seven albums. The album running time runs a long course from the starting funkiness, over free improvisational jazz to real fusion jazz and progressive rock drifts. Die hard fans of Magma will certainly dig Brian’s homage to the band from Kobaia reached through the closing epic piece called Walomendem.

I am telling you, you will think there’s a full big band orchestra standing behind Quipu, but soon you will be amazed by the fact that this is an achievement of one, well-inspired guy from San Diego. Knowing Brian Ellis’ appetite for experimentation in variety of genres, Quipu comes as a logical consequence of the circumstances. And this buddy has what to offer. While you wait for the new Astra record, which is at the moment in its recording phase, give a chance to Quipu. You won’t regret.


1. Birth
2. Canyon
3. Count To Ten
4. Funeral March
5. Gossamer
6. Psaw
7. Walomendem


* Brian Ellis – all instruments


* David Hurley – drums


Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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