Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Don Ellis at Fillmore Live -- FINALLY on CD!
Peter Xander | Lake Arrowhead, CA USA | 09/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a budding classical and jazz musician in the late 60s and early 70s, I played in jazz festivals with my junior high and high school jazz ensembles. As part of those festivals, I was able to meet, sight-read with, and hear some of the greatest jazz legends. The most memorable, though, was Don Ellis.
I had several of his albums, most notably the live recording at Fillmore, "Autumn," and "Electric Bath." All were lost, however, when my home and possessions were destroyed in the tragic fire that swept through the San Bernardino Mountains in late October, 2003. I eventually found copies on-line at a record store in Vancouver, B.C., but now the Don Ellis at Fillmore recordings have been released on CD!
I was fascinated with the Don Ellis Orchestra's wildly offbeat (literally!) meters, hot arrangements, and incredibly talented musicians. When Don passed away in the late 70s from a congenital heart condition at the age of 42, the music world lost one of its greatest geniuses, regardless of genre. The Fillmore CD represent perhaps the pinnacle of success of the orchestra and is not to be missed by even a casual lover of jazz or music.
The Don Ellis version of "Hey Jude" took me years to appreciate. It's much like the pine-pitch-flavored Greek wine Retsina -- people either love it or hate it. The psychedelic trumpet cadenza at the beginning, powered by a ring modulator and echo effects, almost strains one's patience until the tune finally gets into the swing of things . . . only to be shattered by a fingernails-on-a-chalkboard pseudo-German Oom Pah Pah band segment, replete with wheezing out-of-tune clarinets -- truly a crack-up -- then blasting away in a big-band funk styling. Another Ellis solo, replete with duets and trios performed with the echo effect gives way to a powerful, straight-ahead finish.
"The Blues" is, shockingly enough, written in 4/4 time -- one of the few arrangements they ever did in a "normal" meter (it was once joked that the Don Ellis Orchestra would play the Dave Brubeck Quartet classic "Take Five" in 4/4, just to be different!). "The Blues" is a classic, wonderfully performed blues number.
"Old Man's Tear" is a delightful ballad composed and arranged by band saxophonist John Klemmer, who later went on to a meteoric solo career. The tune pushes Ellis's considerable talents to their limit. "Great Divide" is an example of their use of eccentric meters and is written in 13/4, divided 3-3-2, 3-2. In the Fillmore performance, band members wandered into the audience near the end of the tune, adlibbing on the central theme of the piece. As they did so, though, the audience STOOD AND APPLAUDED, blocking their view of Don for the cues! Ellis ran up onstage, got everyone's attention, and finished the piece with the audience none the wiser.
"Pussy Wiggle Stomp" is a rollicking gospel-bluesy number played in 7/4 time at a breakneck pace. It has more false endings than the Emmy Awards actresses and is a great deal of fun. The audience joined in with rhythmic clapping in 7/4 time -- a tribute to the appreciative and knowledgable crowd.
"Final Analysis" was the band's opening number and, according to Don, "is basically in 4/4 plus 5/4 with an occasional 5/4 and/or 1-1/2 plus 1-1/2 (or 3)." 'Nuf sed! "Antea" is a chart written by Hank Levy and has the intelligent, urbane style and themes that are typical of this fabulous composer/arranger. A truly beautiful tune.
"The Magic Bus Ate My Doughnut," if not directly inspired by or written under the influence of mind-altering psychedelics, certainly is an homage to the off-beat, experimental jazz stylings of the late 50s and 60s. As a snapshot in jazz history, it is distinctive and has value for that alone . . . but don't expect a hummable tune.
"Salvatore Sam" was a musical portrait Ellis wrote of his hot sax man Sam Falzone, who flat-out burns up the track in this number. "Excursion II" is another John Klemmer arrangement and it features the arranger in a showpiece for his considerable abilities.
In "Rock Odyssey" I believe I saved the best for last. Another Hank Levy arrangement, "Rock Odyssey" begins as a soft 7/4, cooks in a fast-paced 12/8 middle section divided up 2-2-3, 2-3 that flows smoothly and blows the roof off the joint with powerful solos by Ellis, trombonist Glenn Ferris, and amazing cross-rhythms by the great drummer Ralph Humphrey in the odd meter, finishing back in 7/4 and repeating the opening theme.
While jazz aficianados have been deprived of the musical genius and sheer energy of Don Ellis for nearly thirty years now, this CD release of perhaps the greatest of the Ellis Orchestra's recordings will enable lovers of terrific music to appreciate Don Ellis for many decades to come.
Great music, finally reborn!
Tooey | 09/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember, vividly, blasting the paint off the walls, listening to this fabulous and experimental album through my oversized Polk Audio speakers. And, just as fondly I recall the quizical look it would produce on my mothers face as she tried to understand the sounds of the odd meter, the quarter tone trumpet, the ring modulator and the speaker in the guitar players mouth.
This is simply the gretest jazz album I ever owned, and maybe the best one ever produced. Ellis and his exquisite band romp through the music with a presence, exuberance and accuarcy that still amazes.
The album altered big bands forever. Even now,the music is edgy, full of life and inspiring.Thank you Don Ellis."
The 70's sure started out on a high note!
Martin Hogan | Grand Rapids, Michigan | 03/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Too bad the seventies ended with disco; which crushed pioneering music types...and rising from the ashes comes Spyrogyra and Mannheim Steamroller (what are they on, their 57th Christmas album?). I apologize for the bleek beginnings of this review. But what else can I add? It is an absolutely unique moment in musical history that has been gifted onto CD. So ya wanna big band that knows Timothy Leary...here ya go! It has its avant-garde moments but retains musicality throughout. This should appeal to fans of Terry Kath stylings of guitar. Does anyone remember The Flock? Okay, anywho...just buy it before it goes out of print again; you shall not regret this purchase. (Why the thin-sounding mastering job? Does the mastering engineer use Behringer and Alesis products? The LP is much, much fuller.)"