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 heart.
Ellis employed a very large orchestra (four reeds, eight brass, one keyboard, two bassists, two drummers, two percussionists, and a string quartet) to perform six of his original compositions that serve as fine vehicles for a series of excellent solos. The main players are trumpeter Ellis, multireedist Ted Nash, and trombonist Alan Kaplan. A great snapshot of edgy ‘70s jazz.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.