DON WHO?!? Don Ellis: Essence

If you’ve even heard the name Don Ellis at all, it’s probably from the forward looking big band that the trumpeter/composer led in the late sixties with intricate time meters and boasting musicians like John Klemmer and Tom Scott. Probably forgotten because he died before his time from the results of a heart attack, Ellis also put out some earlier sessions in a smaller group format. This one from 1962 is his most obscure, and don’t let the cover that looks like he used to be a member of The Beach Boys fool you; this is a humdinger!

If you’re looking for chops with fire, get a load of him hosing down “Johnny Come Lately” and “Lover” with a pitch, drive, delivery and clarity that grabs you by the neck and shakes you until your eyes bug out and you  can’t resist any longer. He also produces a penetrating “Angel Eyes,” but doesn’t get complacent, as his team of “Paul Bley/p, Gary Peacock/b and Gene Stone-Nick Martinis/dr do some creative and ahead-of-its-time material on “Slow  Space” and “Irony.” The highlights are when he combines the experimental with the swinging, as on “Ostinato” which has Ellis soaring and swooning over barely controlled drumming that almost spontaneously combusts before safely landing on terra firma. Amazing how fresh this session from a half century ago sounds, making so much present day material seem stale and archaic.

Fresh Sound Records

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