DON ELLIS INFO SHEET Please note: After 2001, I will no longer be maintaining this web page. My time is needed elsewhere and other sites have come along to present Don's legacy on the Web.

I'd like to thank all who have contributed to this page and everyone who has shared their knowledge and experiences with me. It has been a lot of fun.

A Modest Proposal for Don's Legacy on the Web

I believe that Don's memory can best be preserved by a group of coordinated volunteers. To do Don's memory proper justice will be a huge undertaking. For instance, a proper discography would take quite a bit of time to put together (and there is no sense in many people duplicating work trying to do their own discographies). Getting the copyright approvals would also be a major time expense. Administering the "remember Don" message board is also an on-going, time-consuming activity.

To do this right, imagine having a head WWW page editor and a small army of section editors. These sections would include:
- WWW design, markup, and artwork
- Remembrances
- Newsletter (and mailing list?)
- Filmography (complete the list, and watch for video releases)
- DE Reader
- Albums of Related interest
- Additional Notes
- Printed Charts
- Links

Each of these sections is manageable for one person to look after.

Think of how LINUX was created by a group of volunteers dedicated to a single goal. I'm sure it would help to attract volunteers if they knew they were working on the "official" DE site. It would probably be appropriate for Ellis Music Enterprises to be the "publisher" of this site. They would have ultimate editorial control.


Born: July 25, 1934; Los Angeles. Died: Dec. 17, 1978; Hollywood.
Last Update: April 14, 2001.



For the 15 years before his untimely death Don Ellis was leader of one of the most innovative big bands of all time. In The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the 70s it is pointed out that Don claims to have had the first big band involved in "extensive use of odd time signatures; electric string quartet; vocal quartet used as instrumental section; recording of extended solo using echoplex; use of quarter tones for solos, and for passages by entire trumpet section; fusion of Indian music in jazz; employment of Fender-Rhodes piano, clavinet, ring modulator and phaser, etc." His orchestra also achieved unprecedented popular appeal at a time when big band music, and jazz in general, were otherwise at low ebb.

Odd time signatures were the band's trade mark -- anything but 3 or 4: 5, 7, 11, 13, 33, or even "a fast 25 with a bridge in 27"! But these odd time signatures were not gimmicks; the band could play through them with ease -- and swing! Most of the charts were written and arranged by Don, although several band members, and Hank Levy, also contributed originals.

Below is some Don Ellis information that I have compiled. Included are albums under his own name and his appearances on albums by other leaders, a list of his scores for movies and television, and citations for his books on rhythm and also quarter-tone music. Finally, there are sections on miscellaneous notes and albums of related interest.

I wish to thank Scott Harris for his many contributions to this site in recent years.

I would appreciate receiving additions, corrections, etc. that anyone might have. I would also enjoy hearing from anyone else out there who shares my appreciation of the music of Don Ellis.

Don Ellis has always been my favourite musician. Besides his compositional talents Don was a gifted trumpet player and soloist, and most of his charts were arranged to feature this talent. I'm not sure what it is about his playing, but his solos always "speak" to me unlike any others.



untitled? (1960) [Enrica LP2003]
With Jaki Byard, Ron Carter, Charlie Persip

...HOW TIME PASSES... (1960) [Candid 9004, CD reissue]
With Jaki Byard, Ron Carter, Charlie Persip Experiments with time, 12 tone rows, etc.

OUT OF NOWHERE (1961) [Candid 79032, CD reissue]
With Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. Reworking of standards. Poor sound quality. Possibly never released on LP (see Bruyninckx).

NEW IDEAS (1961) [Prestige 7607, reissued on CD]
With Al Francis, Jaki Byard, Ron Carter, Charlie Persip. More experiments.

ESSENCE (1962) [Pacific Jazz 55]
With Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Gene Stone, and Nick Martinis.

With Wojciech Karolak, Roman Dylag, and Andrzej Dabrowski.

** There is a compilation of early Ellis tracks available on a CD Import "Don Ellis" on European Giants of Jazz # CD 53262 TRACKS: I'll Remember April, Sweet and Lovely, Out of Nowhere, All The Things You Are, You Stepped Out of a Dream, My Funny Valentine, I Love You, Just One of Those Things, Johnny Come Lately, Angel Eyes, Lover, Form, Sallie, How Time Passes & A Simplex One. (Contributed by Robert Kastner.) [These appear to be from How TImes Passes, Out of Nowhere, and Essense -- ed.]

** all albums that follow are with the Don Ellis Orchestra (except Haiku)

DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA AT MONTEREY (1966) [Pacific Jazz 10112; CD reissue EMI (Japan) CJ32-5006]
The Don Ellis Orchestra in its primordial stage. Fun to hear some ideas that would reappear later. A Hank Levy chart shows a link to Dee Barton? Includes "Concerto for Trumpet" and "Passacaglia and Fugue".

LIVE IN 3 2/3 4 (1966) [Pacific Jazz; CD reissue coming soon!]

ELECTRIC BATH (1967) [Col. CS9585; CD reissued by CBS(France) 472620 and also GNP/Crescendo 2223]
One of Don's best. A free-wheeling big band playing free-wheeling charts.

SHOCK TREATMENT (1968) [Col. CS9668]
Actually a little less "shocking" than its companion, "Electric Bath," but still some very inventive charts with a track in 4/4 even(!) "'That's 5/4 minus 1' as Don explains it [to his band]." Two versions of CS9668 were issued. Shortly after its initial release two tracks were replaced by another tune and edits on two other tracks were restored.

AUTUMN (1968) [Col. CS9721; CD reissued by CBS(France) 472622]
Excellent album that shows the diversity of the band. From grand pieces like "Variations for Trumpet" to the quasi-hillbilly "Scratt and Fluggs". Also, several outstanding live tracks.

An odd assortment of pop vocals and pop covers. For fanatics only.

DON ELLIS AT FILLMORE (June, 1970) [Col. CG30243]
Includes many of Don's most famous works: "Pussy Wiggle Stomp," "Final Analysis," the "Great Divide." Also, a version of "Hey Jude" that you will either love -- or never forgive Don for playing.

TEARS OF JOY (1971) [Col. CG30927]
My personal favourite. First record with the string quartet added. Live. This album clearly demonstrates the uniqueness of the Don Ellis Orchestra. "Blues in Elf," my all-time fav, opens with "Moonlight Sonata" -- in 11!

CONNECTION (1972) [Col. C31766]
Mostly arrangements of popular songs of the day (often done in meters differing from the originals?). Includes "The French Connection" theme and my favourite Hank Levy chart, "Chain Reaction".

SOARING (1973) [MPS MB25123]
Some excellent original charts in the "Tears of Joy" tradition.

HAIKU (1973) [MPS MC25341]
A bit of a departure. Basically Don + strings.

A new band (named Survival) Don formed after recovering from his 1st heart attack. 21 members -- but sounds smaller and tighter than the earlier Ellis Orchestras. Includes a few "Star Wars" tunes, and some interesting stuff too. The distinctive Ellis band sound and solo voice remains.

LIVE AT MONTREUX (1977) [Atlantic SD19178]
Don's last. Similar to -- but much better than "Music From..."


Charles Mingus: Mingus Dynasty (1959)
Ellis plays on half the tracks.

Charles Mingus: Nostalgia in Times Square
A reissue of MINGUS DYNASTY, but without any edits.

Maynard Ferguson: A Message from Birdland (1959) [Roulette 52027]
Don does not solo.

Maynard Ferguson: MF Plays Jazz for Dancing (1959) [Roulette 52038]

Maynard Ferguson: Newport Suite (1960) [Roulette 52053]

Scott Agin informs us that a heretofore unissued track of Willie Maiden's "Three More Foxes" has turned up on Mosaic Record's Maynard box set. Recorded June 17, 1959, he says "these are some of the most ingenious bop concepts I've ever heard Ellis lay down, and I've [heard] quite a bit of him."

Dennis Whitling has noted that Ellis plays on three tracks of a session recorded for Warwick in 1960 with Booker Little, Curtis Fuller, Teddy Charles, Mal Waldron, Addison Farmer, Philly Joe Jones, Ed Shaughnessy, and Willie Rodriguez. Apparently these have been issued several times on Warwick, TCB, and perhaps Fresh Sounds. See the Booker Little Discography for the very confusing details.

George Russell: Sextet in K.C. (?) (1961) [Decca 4183]
with "War Gewesen", etc.

George Russell: Ezz-thetics (1961) [Riverside 9375; reissued as OJC-70 ]

George Russell: The Stratus Seekers (1962)[Riverside 9412; reissued as OJC-365]
excellent record, with Ellis taking many extended solos.

George Russell: The Outer View (1962) [Riverside 9440; reissued as OJC-616]
Russell's "D.C. Divertamento" forshadows many of Don's extended works! Also, an awesome treatment of "You Are My Sunshine" feat. Sheila Jordan.

George Russell: Outer Thoughts [Milestone 47027]

Eric Dolphy: Vintage Dolphy (1963) [GM3005]
Stan Jones notes: "Track 7 Bird's Donna Lee. This features a number of soloists in addition to Ellis and Dolphy (Phil Woods, Benny Golson, etc.). It was recorded April 18, 1963 at Carnegie Hall as part of the Twentieth-Century Innovations series organized by Gunther Schuller."

Leonard Bernstein: Conducts Music for Our TIme(1965) [Columbia MS 6733 Stereo & ML 6133 Mono]
Featuring contemporary compositions by Gyorgy Ligeti (Atmospheres); Morton Feldman (Out of "Last Pieces"); Public Domain (Four Improvisations by the Orchestra); and Larry Austin (Improvisations for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists) with Don Ellis, Trumpet; Barre Phillips, Bass; and Joe Cocuzzo, Drums and Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic. Recorded on January 13, 1964 in Philharmonic Hall, now Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City. (Contributed by Ryan Takatsu)

Karin Krog/Don Ellis: Jubilee (1967) [Brave BR 100, Verve 523 716-2]

Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention: Absolutely Free (1967) [Verve V5013]
Don appears on one track

Fill Your Head with Jazz [Col. G30217]
this "sampler" LP includes the "K.C. Blues" that appeared on "Autumn".

Beautiful People ( 1970) [Harmony HS 11383]
A compilation of the following Columbia recording artists: John Kay (Square Headed People), The Great Society with Grace Slick (Sally Go 'Round the Roses), Ravi Shankar (Sitar Todi), The Byrds (Lay Down Your Weary Tune), The Electric Flag (Groovin' is Easy), The United States of America (The American Metaphysical Circus), The Rising Sons (Candy Man), Tim Rose (Hey Joe) and Don Ellis (Star Children). (Contributed by Ryan Takatsu)

Al Kooper: I Stand Alone (1968) [Columbia LP CS-9719; Japan Sony CD SRCS 6196]
One track features the Don Ellis Orchestra on "Coloured Rain". The track was written by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi & Chris Wood (Traffic). Kooper produced the "Autumn" album and "Eli's Comin" on "Goes Underground." This track is from the same period. (Contributed by Robert Kastner).

The Atlantic Family Live at Montreux (1977) [Atlantic SD2-3000]
80 second solo on a rather lame "Pick Up the Pieces."

Tommy Vig, Don Ellis, M. Leviev, A. Laboriel, Ed Green (1978) [Dobre 1015]

Any further pointers would be very much appreciated.


  Monterey Jazz Festival                       (1967)
  Monterey Jazz                                (1968)
  Moon Zero Two                                (1969)
  Sounds of Summer: The Concorde Jazz Festival (1970)
  French Connection                            (1971)
  Kansas City Bomber                           (1972)
  The Seven-Ups                                (1973)
  Movin' On                                    (1974-6, TV series)
  In Tandem/Movin On                           (1974)
  Man Belongs to the Earth                     (1974)
  French Connection II                         (1975)
  The Deadly Tower                             (1975)
  Doctors Hospital                             (1975, TV series)
  Maniac/Assault on Paradise/Ransom            (1977)
  Ruby                                         (1977)
  Natural Enemies                              (1979)
* I'm afraid I've lost the source of this list.

See also the Internet Movie Database.


From the LC database (telnet
   Type of Material: Book
     LC Call Number: MT42 .E47
             Author: Ellis, Don.
              Title: The new rhythm book, [by] Don Ellis, with additional
                      chapters by Milcho Leviev, Dave McDaniel [and] Ralph
   Publication Info: North Hollywood, Calif., Ellis Music Enterprises, 1972.
  Phys. Description: vi, 101 p. illus. 29 cm.
              Notes: Bibliography: p. 93-94; discography: p. 95-101.

   Type of Material: Musical score
     LC Call Number: MT170 .E44 1975
             Author: Ellis, Don.
              Title: Quarter tones : a text with musical examples, exercises,
                      and etudes / Don Ellis.
   Publication Info: Plainview, Long Island, N.Y. : H. Branch Pub., c1975.
  Phys. Description: 92 p. of music ; 31 cm.
              Notes: Bibliography: p. 92.



The Broadway show Blast! and its companion CD contain a recording of Ellis' "Loss". (Contributed by Jessica)

For folk songs in odd meters it's hard to beat LE MYSTERE DES VOIX