Don Ellis, 1934 – 1978
Trumpeter Don Ellis began playing progressive jazz with the likes of George Russell, Jaki Beard, Paul Bley, Ron Carter, and Steve Swallow. In 1968 he formed The Don Ellis Orchestra for which he is justly famous. When he took the helm of this organization, Ellis added the roles of composer, arranger and band leader to his resume. Odd and unusual time signatures, such as 3 and 2/3-quarter time , became a trademark of the group,.
The band played jazz, rock, avant-garde, Eastern music, and classical, all this before the term “fusion” became fashionable. The orchestra recorded extensively for Columbia and Pacific Jazz, ELECTRIC BATH (CS 9585) and LIVE AT MONTEREY (PJ 10112) being two of its finer albums. The amazing and award-winning soundtrack music in The French Connection was created by Ellis.
After suffering a heart attack, he related to journalists his near out-of-body-death experiences on the operating table. A second attack took his life at the age of 44.
Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.