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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Haiku

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One of the more tragic casualties of the 1970s was Don Ellis. Emerging from the big bands of Maynard Ferguson, Charlie Barnet, and Ray McKinley, the trumpeter began releasing albums under his own name in the early 1960s, distanced from his mentors' more mainstream big band sound. Beginning in small ensembles with free-thinking players such as pianist Paul Bley and bassist Gary Peacock, Ellis proved himself a more experimental instrumentalist, a quality he carried over to a return to larger contexts. One of the first to explore the greater energy (and volume) of jazz-rock in a big band context, Ellis--who ...

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Pieces Of Eight & The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground

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Known for his use of unusual meters and remarkable innovations, trumpeter Don Ellis gave the world plenty to think about. If it could be done in the manner that he prescribed, then there was no limit to what other bands could do either. We listened, we accepted, and we learned that we, too, could invent.

Ellis gave us the inspiration that we needed at a time when jazz was undergoing radical changes. These two albums represent both the immaculate musical majesty and the innovative strides that Ellis was able to offer.

Don Ellis Octet ...

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Essence; Live at Vision Festival X, NYC

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Don Ellis Essence Mighty Quinn 2005

Trumpeter Don Ellis was at the nexus of West Coast jazz in the late '50s and early '60s, a veteran of several big bands who appeared on Mingus Dynasty before recording Essence in 1962 (here reissued for the first time). The styles and tempos change (or disappear), but Ellis always plays with a pure tone, emotional restraint and a logical flow that has every note following naturally from the one preceding it. “Slow Space is similar to the silence-heavy music pianist Paul Bley would make with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Essence

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A very interesting character, trumpeter and bandleader Don Ellis is probably best known for the big bands he led in the late '60s, which served as a vehicle for his experiments with electronics and unusual time signatures. Albums such as Electric Bath and Live in 3 2/3/4 Time are brimming with the excitement of an era that was filled with rebellion and a quest for individuality. In his own way then, Ellis brought a new outlook to the big band mold that was way beyond the traditional swing style of earlier prototypes.

Much less is acknowledged or discussed ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Essence

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Originally released in 1962 on Pacific Jazz as P-55, this reissue has been a long time coming. It reveals the kernel of Don Ellis that later blossomed into a broad-based big bandleader who straddled the fence between mainstream jazz and free jazz. His intellectually complex compositions have always knocked the socks off listeners and performers alike.

Ellis wrote “Ostinato" in 1957 for the Seventh Army Jazz II orchestra in Germany. Its opening 7/8 meter, followed by simultaneous 5/8 and 4/4 meters and an 11/8 piano accompaniment for Ellis' creative trumpet solo, foretell the rhythmic storms that would follow ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Don Ellis at Fillmore

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What a memorable album. I guess I grew up on this one. That was back when my hair still had color, my knees both worked quite well, and I still had that “fresh out of college" attitude that took me off in many directions at once.

Don Ellis takes you off on a whirlwind ride, using electronic trumpet, complex meters, superb big band arrangements, and a cast of experienced sidemen who blow the walls down. Lest you've forgotten the details, it's all described in the original liner notes by Ellis, which are included in this CD reissue.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Tears of Joy

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Recorded at San Francisco's Basin Street West in 1971, Tears of Joy marked a subtle change in the Don Ellis big band. The trumpeter was gradually drifting toward popular music, and he was beginning to use the new electronic technology to its best advantage. However, he continued to load each arrangement with the kinds of musical features that have always left their unique stamp on his undertakings. Ellis and his other soloists stretch out with virtuosity while complex rhythms and dense counterpoint fill the air, and the band's sections taunt each other with adventurous forays.

Meters of 11/4, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Connection

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In the early 1970s, Don Ellis reshaped his big band, dropping the three acoustic basses and substituted one Fender bass. His guitarist added echoplex effects and wah-wah sensations, taking the group away from its straight-ahead big band sound and plunging it into the electronic decade. The band got connected to pop culture.

Ellis made a few changes from the standpoint of his trumpet leadership, too. His bright post bop technique, with its fluid syncopation, continued to lead with a dynamic presence. Ellis added a melodic fragrance, however, that introduced a different kind of air to his band's output. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Essence

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Essence is a gem of an album that warranted reissue long before now. Originally pressed for Pacific in 1962, it's firmly rooted in a lot of the sounds developed during the sixties--one foot steeped in the tradition and the other lunging towards new ideas. And like the best music, it retains its excitement some forty years later.Don Ellis' early recordings usually featured trumpet-led ensembles full of the angles that permeate his more recognized big band work that emerged less than five years later, but they differed greatly in velocity. Ellis keeps good company here, to say the least, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Live At Montreux

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Recorded 27 years ago, this album from the Don Ellis library contains all the rhythmic and polyphonic excitement that you’d expect from such a pioneer in modern big band jazz. With this CD release, the original LP has been augmented by the addition of three previously unreleased tracks that came from the same Montreux performance.

With his trumpet in hand, and an instrumentation that exceeds the norm, Ellis gave the world a remarkable sound. His compositions and arrangements left their mark. Performances such as this one have provided inspiration for all. Bass clarinet, French horn, oboe, tuba, ...

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Don Ellis, Dave Douglas, and the 'Progression' of Jazz

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A few weekends ago I was watching reruns of the old Ed Sullivan Show on my local PBS station, when who should appear but Don Ellis. I had been a bit of an Ellis fan in my rock-influenced teenage years, and it was interesting and a bit surreal to suddenly see him on my television screen leading his big band, dressed in full sixties sartorial regalia.

During the end of the 1960s and into the ‘70s, Ellis led a big band that fused the full, imaginatively voiced arrangements of the Stan Kenton band with the electronics of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Live at Montreux

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Living and Dying in 7/8 time...

Don Ellis no more gave a damn about the status quo in Jazz than the man in the moon did. He was not so much an iconoclast as a creative, happy-go-lucky creator of interesting music who was not so much out to make a point as to try something new and different and maybe make some descent music at the same time. Koch Jazz and re-released Ellis’ last recording, Live at Montreux, in an expanded edition, including three pieces previously unreleased. Ellis was to die a year later in December 1978 of a failing ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Live In 3 2/3 /4 Time

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Don Ellis wrote and arranged in unusual meters, and yet was able to make each composition swing. He’d drive home the time signature to his audience by providing for congas, timbales, cowbell and three double basses to repeat the meter in an ostinato fashion. And of course the whole band would get into the action, accenting where appropriate to achieve 5, 7, 11, 13 or 19 beats to the measure. Eventually the trumpeter would step in and improvise over that kind of swinging, repetitive motion.

One piece on this latest reissue, “Upstart," was written in 3 2/3 /4, or 11/8 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Don Ellis: Live At Monterey

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In the liner notes Leonard Feather called Don Ellis “the Stan Kenton of the 1970s." After earning a degree in music composition at Boston University, the trumpeter interned with several big bands, Latin jazz bands, Charles Mingus, and George Russell. Expanding his study of ethnomusicology at UCLA, Ellis formulated ideas about innovative ways to “break the rules" of rhythm and harmony in jazz. Espousing third stream and free jazz, the trumpeter played a specially made four-valve model that enabled him to produce quarter tones that were somewhat accurate; however, the idea never caught on because it's possible to do the ...



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