175

Don Ellis: Connection

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count
Don Ellis: Connection
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. Lightly, like Herb Alpert, the trumpeter wove popular melodies into his performances. Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich were doing similar things with their big bands. Popular songs made great subject matter, and some of their work found its way into the movie studio on soundtracks.

Ellis' "Theme from The French Connection" combines his electronic generation retrofit sound with an intellectually challenging rhythmic arrangement that stems from the heart and soul of the composer's experimental work. His music has always been exciting.

However, the unique character of Ellis' earlier work is missing on this recently reissued recording from 1972. He and the bandmembers solo less often, preferring instead to let the music flow with popular melodies. Vocals are added to several selections. Electric guitar and electric bass take center stage much of the time. Keyboards surround the band with lush scenery. Still, some of Ellis' trademark features are still there. His trumpet rages powerfully on "Superstar" and his flugelhorn floats gently on "Alone Again (Naturally)."

For something entirely new and different, Ellis and guitarist Jay Graydon team up on "Goodbye to Love," each with wah-wah effects of his own. Each instrument approaches the effect differently, but they both achieve a deep blues feeling here and through several other tracks. The band's portrayal of "Lean on Me" gets a contemporary treatment, not unlike that of Quincy Jones and the theme from Sanford and Son. Ellis' shift to the new electronic decade made a dramatic statement in big band circles.

Hank Levy's "Chain Reaction" combines the old and the new. Ellis weaves a bright trumpet solo over a lush orchestral pattern that thunders with percussive excitement. Electronic whiz-bang tools jump out from all directions. Milcho Leviev adds a thrilling bebop piano solo with walking bass and drums that's complemented luxuriously by the string quartet. Meters change, tempos shift, moods flip-flop, and old meets new as Ellis summarizes his life's work in a suite designed to connect all the pieces. He's still in fine form, and he presents an exciting program designed to appeal to a broad audience. In all that he accomplished, Don Ellis was a superstar.

Track Listing

Put it Where You Want it; Alone Again (Naturally); Superstar; I Feel the Earth Move; Theme from "The French Connection"; Conquistador; Roundabout; Chain Reaction; Goodbye to Love; Lean on Me; Train to Get There.

Personnel

Don Ellis: trumpet, flugelhorn, leader; Fred Selden, Gary Herbig, Vince Denham, Sam Falzone, reeds; Glenn Stuart, Bruce MacKay, Paul Bogosian, Gil Rathel: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sidney Muldrow: French horn; Glenn Ferris: trombone; Ken Sawhill: bass trombone; Doug Bixby: tuba; Jay Graydon: guitar; Milcho Leviev: keyboards; Dave McDaniel: bass; Ralph Humphrey: drums; Ron Dunn: drums, percussion; Lee Pastora: congas; Carmelo Garcia: timbales, percussion; Tom Buffum, Earle Corry: electric violin; Denyse Buffum: electric viola; Pat Kudzia: electric cello.

Album information

Title: Connection | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Wounded Bird Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Earth
Earth
Dave Liebman
Read Urban(e)
Urban(e)
Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra
Read Hiding Place
Hiding Place
Mark Murphy, Folk Artist
Read The Truce
The Truce
Markus Reuter
Read Data Lords
Data Lords
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Read In Igma
In Igma
Pedro Melo Alves
Read Blood Moon
Blood Moon
Ingrid Laubrock + Kris Davis

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.