“Don Ellis – Electric Heart” is the story of one of the most innovative musicians of the 20th Century. Ellis (1934–1978) fused together a mixture of Jazz-Classical-Rock and his own version of World Music long before anyone else had thought of doing it. He was the first to experiment with odd rhythms as well as introducing electronics into the world of Jazz. His life, times & music is explored with interviews from musical giants such as bandleader Maynard Ferguson, Pulitzer Winning composer Gunther Schuller as well as pianist Milcho Leviev. Rare footage of Ellis overwhelms the film as Ellis attempts to take Jazz to new heights and never look back. Strangely, his life story and musical genius has almost been completely forgotten. The unforgettable short life of one of the greatest musicians of all time is explored and a re-birth of the electrifying and magical sounds of Don Ellis is back for all to enjoy!
Don Ellis was a hot item in 1971. He had done a few big band albums that sounded like Doc Severson plugged into Frank Zappa'a sound system, and was opening a lot of rock shows, back in the era when you could get rock and roll kids to listen to and appreciate jazz. So, Billy Friedkin makes French Connection, and gets Don to score it. Billy must have known he had a hit on his hands, and wanted a big name to put on the composer credit. Ellis does an entire, half hour score for the movie. Not a lot of this music made it into the film: evidently, Billy wanted to have a gritty film with lots of street noises, and, tastefully edited Don's score to bare bones. It works in the movie, but a lot of really good music never saw the light of day.
An internationally recognized child prodigy by the age of 6, Hungarian drummer/percussionist Tommy Vig grew to become one of the premier European jazz players. In the late 1950's he migrated to New York and became a much in demand percussionist, over the years performing with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Tony Curtis, the Miles Davis-Gil Evans big band, Woody Allen, Diana Ross, and The Carpenters, to name a few. Vig is also the percussionist on all the Rod Stewart albums. Presented here is Vig's classic 1978 recording simply titled "1978," featuring Tommy Vig on vibes with Don Ellis (trumpet); Milcho Leviev (piano); Ed Green (drums) and Abraham Laboriel (bass). All selections newly remastered.
Trumpeter Don Ellis (1934-1978) led one of the most memorable big bands of all time; actually several of them. During 1965-1975, his orchestras blazed their own unusual path, becoming famous for their utilization of ridiculously complex time signatures (seven/four and nine/four were commonplace for those musicians), a mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments, and a crazy sense of humor. Milcho Leviev's musical career in the United States began when he emigrated from Bulgaria in 1971 to join Don Ellis' band. Leviev found the unusual time signatures to be second nature and he was featured on "Bulgarian Bulge."
The material presented here was recorded in 1962 during the 5th Jazz Jamboree and features American trumpeter Don Ellis, accompanied by a Polish rhythm section consisting of pianist Wojciech Karolak, bassist Roman Dylag and drummer Andrzej Dabrowski. All the six tracks were recorded live during the Festival, the last of which is an extended suite composed by Polish pianist / composer Andrzej Trzaskowski presented as part of a concert dedicated to the Third Stream (early Jazz-Classical Fusion initiated by American composer Gunther Schuller in the late 1950s). On that track the quartet is accompanied by the Polish National Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Of the five shorter Jazz pieces, two are original compositions by Ellis and the remaining three are standards.
Tracks from three recently discovered 1960’s concerts, by the celebrated arranger, pianist & experimental theorist, George Russell, released here for the very first time - and from the same period as his famous “Ezz-Thetics” album (1961) with Eric Dolphy. Included are new versions of the Russell classics: “Stratusphunk” and “The Outer View”.
A talented trumpeter with a vivid musical imagination and the willingness to try new things, Don Ellis led some of the most colorful big bands of the 1965-75 period. After graduating from Boston University, Ellis played in the big bands of Ray McKinley, Charlie Barnet, and Maynard Ferguson (he was featured with the latter on "Three More Foxes"), recorded with Charles Mingus, and played with George Russell's sextet (at the same time as Eric Dolphy). Ellis led four quartet and trio sessions during 1960-1962 for Candid, New Jazz, and Pacific Jazz, mixing together bop, free jazz, and his interest in modern classical music.
The photograph on the cover might throw some people off, but this album is a compilation of songs from Don's small group dates from the early 60s, "How Time Passes," "Out Of Nowhere," and "Essence." The packaging is kind of generic, but the CD was issued by the Giants of Jazz label with the good intention that more of Don's recordings should be available to the public…a sentiment with which I couldn't agree more. I would recommend seeking out the original albums to get the full program of each, but since "Essence" has been out of print for decades, the four tracks pulled from that album are worth the bargain price of this CD. The booklet includes a brief timeline of Don's career.
Composer George Russell's early-'60s Riverside recordings are among his most accessible. For this set (the CD reissue adds an alternate take of the title cut to the original program), Russell and his very impressive sextet (which is comprised of trumpeter Don Ellis, trombonist Garnett Brown, Paul Plummer on tenor, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete La Roca) are challenged by the complex material; even Charlie Parker's blues "Au Privave" is transformed into something new. It is particularly interesting to hear Don Ellis this early in his career. The most famous selection, a very haunting version of "You Are My Sunshine," was singer Sheila Jordan's debut on records.
George Russell was clearly one of the leading forces in expanding the jazz vocabulary from the early-modern language of bebop to the aggressively free-form expression of the avant-garde. He has been important as an arranger, composer, educator, and creator of the Lydian tonal concept, and in the early Sixties led small groups that presented his own writing, as well as that of Carla Bley and others, and featured such notable players as Eric Dolphy, David Baker, and Don Ellis. The latter two appear prominently on The Stratus Seekers, the third of his four albums for Riverside.