Here is a very personal « Album Review » : it deals with my 12 preferred albums,

It’s impossible to say which one I prefer, actually each one is
« the most » of something...

 

THE MOST EXPERIMENTAL

Reissued on CD......3 pieces in my "greatest hits"

Look at this smile!! Don really seems to have fun with his band: 7/4, 5/4, 3 2/3 /4 time….they are doing the groundwork for the near future. The liner notes from Leonard Feather speak about real and unreal Avant-garde….I don’t know much about all these nuances, I just know that all the pieces of this album are highly interesting, swinging and funny. The trumpet solo on Upstart is wide and warm, the alternate take of Freedom dance is great, so great that it seems shorter than the original take, although it is 2 minutes longer!! But anyway, I’m still wondering two questions which I'd really want to know the answers: what is the special meaning of Angel Eyes for Don, and what is the meaning of Bossa nueva nova?? It’s very strange to add a Spanish word in this pure brazilian Bossa Nova style… 

 

THE MOST ARTISTIC

Reissued on CD......3 pieces in my "greatest hits"

Every piece of this album is a work of art. It's not surprising that Don performed most of these tunes in the art museum of San Francisco, it really fits. The cover (beautiful paint from J.A.D. Ingres) reinforce the artistic style of this album. For this first studio recording, the orchestra is brilliantly adjusted. All the tracks are simply perfect. Alone is beautiful, the syncopated rhythm really sounds brazilian. This piece should be distributed in all Jazz schools. The end of new horizons is the grand finale. I love the rolling drum and the crazy horns answers. 

 

THE MOST IMPORTANT

Reissued on CD......4 pieces in my "greatest hits"

I really think that this album has something in common with Underground, Connection and Starwars, because the music can be enjoyed by a large public (including young people and pop fans). It is a sign of an artist who cares about music evolution (very active at the end of the 60’s). This attitude contributes to always have new ideas. All along the orchestra history, Don didn’t repeat himself from an album to the other. This innovative tendency by regularly going in the direction of young people and modern styles is a common point with Miles Davis I think. (remember his last album Doo Bop, it’s just Hip Hop!!). Mercy Maybe Mercy and Rasty sound like the London pop style of the middle of the 60's, they make me think to british groups and TV shows...The end of Milo’s Theme, with electric trumpet, is a pure touch of Don's music style. 

 

THE MOST ECLECTIC (and the best cover)

Reissued on CD …...3 pieces in my "greatest hits"

OK, here we have: an astonishing jazz suite, a popular yugoslav jingle, a joyful entertaining chorus piece, a fabulous live blues, a great trumpet ballad, and a powerful final jazz hit. I’ve never seen so much diversity in one album. There is a French proverb that says: “all the tastes are in the nature” (I don’t know if it exists in english…). Well, all music styles are in this red meadow…(I really love this rural cover). According to the liner notes, Al Kooper decided to produce an album of the orchestra after seeing the Tanglewood concert. I understand him, there was like an acceleration of the orchestra at that time, a mutation of Don’s music. Imagine if there was no album between Shock treatment and Underground, pretty disconcerting! (thank U Mister Kooper) 

 

THE MOST ECCENTRIC

Reissued on CD......6 pieces in my "greatest hits"

I have a special affection for this album because it was my first contact with Don’s Music. My trumpet teacher gave me a tape with the whole Montreux and 5 tracks from Underground. It was a shock, I never heard about Don Ellis before and I have listened to that tape thousand times. The most surprising thing in this album is the introduction of a singer in the band. Patti Allen is definitely not a well-know girl, but she sings good, and she has a cool Hair-Woodstock-Funkadelic style. The pictures of babies Don and Patti (on the back cover) make me wonder if there was a love affair or maybe a lasting friendship between them...Glenn Ferris appears on two pictures on the back cover, he really looks like Frank Zappa. Glenn also has his name in a piece: Ferris wheel!! It seems there was a lot of complicity between Don and Glenn? 

 

THE MOST POWERFUL

Reissued on CD......5 pieces in my "greatest hits"

This is a crazy album. The first notes of Final analysis set the tone: it’s gonna be intense and explosive! All along the album, the Don’s performance on trumpet is exceptional: high-pitched, deep, electric….at the end of the concert, on Pussy Wiggle Stomp, it’s like Don did everything possible with his instrument, so, what else can be done? OK, no problem, let’s do no-trumpet-at-all, just the mouthpiece!! Also, the orchestra is so present, it never stops phrasing, swinging, the trumpets knock, the saxes answer back, it’s exciting as a boxing game! At the end of Great Divide, the bomb finally explodes, all the band shouts together!! You think it’s finished by Knocked-Out? No, everybody stands up, and Don says his famous: ”YOU REALLY WANT ONE MORE?…. OK, PUSSY WIGGLE STOMP!” (I love this moment)

 

 

THE MOST PERFECT

Reissued on CD......4 pieces in my "greatest hits"

If you want to be sure to impress someone who has never heard the Don Ellis Orchestra, you can use Tears of Joy. Even for people very hard to please, the feedback will be positive…. At that time, the New Don Ellis Band is mature, they do a lot of concerts, they are out from the underground subsoil and they are now close to a soaring takeoff!! The first piece is very dancing. I love the introduction of 5/4 Gateway, it makes me think to a peplum movie, and the theme of How’s this for openers sounds a little bit like The Wild Wild West!…Beethoven introduction on Blues in Elf is delirious and Strawberry soup is just enormous: only for this piece, it was just mandatory to reissue this album on CD, the strings and horns sound so great! 

 

THE MOST AMAZING

Reissued on CD......4 pieces in my "greatest hits"

This album is fun, fun, fun…in 1972, Don won a grammy award for the “French connection theme” and I think he has reached his top of popularity at that time. The movie is very good, the action begins in Marseille, my city where I was born, and where I live. The cover of the album is weird, Don’s is not smiling, he’s not sad either, he’s just neutral, I really don’t think that Don was egocentric, that’s why this cover is strange...The pieces are energetic, especially Superstar and Train to get there. I also love Levy's Chain reaction and the funky I feel the earth move, it sounds so modern, why can't we hear that on radio today? 

 

THE ONE I LISTEN THE MOST

Reissued on CD......6 pieces in my "greatest hits"

I said it was impossible for me to say which album I prefer, but I have to confess that THIS ALBUM HAS TO BE REISSUED ON CD URGENTLY!! The side 1 is just perfect, whiplash makes you stomp your feet, Slaka Pitka makes you stand up, The Devil makes you clap your hands, and Go back home make you dance!!! On side 2, we have Invincible, one of the greatest Don’s composition, Image of maria & Sidonie are nice but Nicole is a bit below I think…pity, it was close to perfection! The last note of Invincible, at the bass, is terrific. I recognize that Don’s music is sometimes hard to assimilate. That’s why Don Ellis is not famous all over the world and that’s why we still wait for the complete discography reissue. But seriously, this album is not so complex, so let’s dream it will be the next one reissued!! 

 

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL

Used LP.....5 pieces in my "greatest hits"

ok, this time it’s not necessary to write anything, just play the record, from Two Autumns for example, until Dew, the progression is fantastic! Just relax and enjoy…. 

 

THE MOST UNIVERSAL

Reissued on CD......5 pieces in my "greatest hits"

Star Wars (the movie) is still a huge success all around the world. It’s nice because it contributes to keep the Don’s discography in the current scene. For example, I saw on Ebay a bid concerning 3 LP’s about Star Wars, including: the original soundtrack, a collector score from Japan, and also the Don Ellis Music from another galaxies and planets!! Well, the 2 pieces from the movie are very good. Lyra, Eros and Arcturas will lead to fabulous moments at Montreux, and Ursa and Crypton are perfectly in the 70’s atmosphere, as Vulcan which is my favourite piece of the album. 

 

THE BEST ONE

Reissued on CD......4 pieces in my "greatest hits"

Yes, let’s say it’s the best one because this album is magic and also because this is the last one! As usual for great artists, the more recent album is always better than the previous one, and that was the case for Don Ellis…Really, this last recording of the orchestra is a pure pleasure. The fusion between strings and horns is perfect, and Don’s performance on trumpet is beautiful. Open Wide sounds a bit like samba, Future feature is powerful, and Ted Nash solo on Go-no-Go is incredible (he’s at least 17 years old!). One day I had difficulties with playing high and low with my trumpet, and my teacher told me: “you better hear Mister Don Ellis”. The week after, he put the Don solo on the middle of Niner two, and he said: “you have to think like that, high and low at the same level !! ” Well, I’m not sure it helped me very much for trumpet, but I discovered that day an incredible music, so different and so innovative. 

 

Now, among my 12 preferred albums,
11 have been re-issued on CD and only 1 is only available as used LP.

This is thanks to « Wounded Bird Records » and also Koch Jazz


I hope that all the 12 will be available on CD pretty soon !!
 

 

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