He graduated from Boston University in with a music composition degree. He stayed with the band until September , when he joined the U. Ellis was transferred to Frankfurt , Germany for duty.
While in that band Ellis had his first opportunity to compose and arrange for a big band. He was able to get some work, but mainly with dance bands and other local work. He toured briefly with bandleader Charlie Barnet and joined the Maynard Ferguson band in spring of He remained with Ferguson for nine months. Shortly thereafter, Ellis became involved in the New York City avant-garde jazz scene.
The last one, Essence , was recorded in mid-July Ellis performed alongside Lou Gluckin on trumpet, J. In October , Ellis traveled to Poland to take part in the Jazz Jamboree in Warsaw ; his quartet performance was partially documented on a Polish-only inch EP.
Ellis chronicled his experience in an article called Warsaw Diary , which was printed in the January 3rd, issue of Down Beat magazine. While there, he became somewhat well known for his experimentation with happenings , similar to those used by members of the Fluxus art movement.
The performance had a quality similar to those Ellis gave in Sweden: unusual artistic devices were employed, such as performers using cards to determine event orders, and musicians using their instruments to interpret a painter's work. Some uncommon musical elements were employed, such as the use of Arabian rhythms and scales, and foot shuffling.
In , Ellis began graduate studies in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles , where he studied with Indian musician Harihar Rao. Greatly inspired by Rao, Ellis sought to implement odd meters in a Western improvised context and with Rao co-authored the article "An Introduction to Indian Music for the Jazz Musician". During his time in Buffalo, Ellis performed jazz, serialist and aleatoric pieces and other forms of composition with such figures as Lukas Foss , George Crumb and Paul Zukofsky.
The Sextet is considered to be the first band of its kind in America. At least one performance also featured saxophonist Gabe Baltazar. Ellis continued writing arrangements for and rehearsing what would become the Don Ellis Orchestra.
This band played every Monday night for almost a year  at Club Havana and then at Bonesville in Hollywood, where it began to draw fans. Some of the members began a successful letter-writing campaign which resulted in an invitation to the Monterey Jazz Festival. Holton built Ellis a custom trumpet which he received in September The inspiration for this may have been due to his studies of Indian music, which includes bent pitches that some ethnomusicologists refer to as "microtones".
However, it was probably more the result of Ellis's involvement with avant-garde classical music in which many composers were experimenting with Western tonality and intervals, especially Harry Partch , with whom Ellis is known to have met and discussed ideas. All of these unusual elements combined to create a musical experience unlike anything the Monterey audience had ever seen.
The Orchestra received thunderous applause and a standing ovation at the conclusion of their first tune, titled "33 1 " in accordance with its subdivision of The band went on to play tunes in 7, 9, and 27, as well as a couple in more standard meters.
Portions of the concert were released on Pacific Jazz the following year. The CD reissue includes several other tunes from the concert; the CD's notes also reveal that one number, "Concerto for Trumpet", was actually recorded a month later at a "Pacific Jazz Festival" in Costa Mesa.
The Monterey performance of that tune was apparently not up to the standards of Ellis and the album's producer, Richard Bock. The band was signed, and was in the studio in September to record Electric Bath , which was released the following year to wide acclaim, was nominated for a Grammy award, won the Down Beat "Album of the Year" award, reaching No. The song "Indian Lady" became one of the band's most popular tunes. Ellis would continue to develop the "electrophonic trumpet" over the next five years see below.
In February the Don Ellis Orchestra was back in the studio to record a second album, which would become Shock Treatment. However, miscommunications arose, and the album was released with poor edits and inferior alternate takes that Ellis did not approve of. In Ellis's own words:.
It wasn't until the album was already released that I heard a pressing. 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. Learn more about our star rating system. Sponsored by Summit Records. Reset your password Click the eye to show your password.
Membership has its privileges. Bulgarian Bulge 4. Get It Together 5. Quiet Longing 6. Blues In Elf 7. Loss 8. How's This For Openers? Samba Bajada Chain Reaction.
Hank Levy. Goodbye to Love. Lean On Me. Bill Withers. Train to Get There. Richard Halligan. Superstar Tim Rice. Chain Reaction Hank Levy. Lean On Me Bill Withers.Ellis accepted the project and wrote the music to be performed by his own Orchestra. Ellis later won a Grammy for this project ("Best Instrumental Arrangement"), and was asked to write the music to the film's sequel, French Connection II in Ellis's final album for Columbia, Connection.