Ellis Info From Nick Di Scala

Here are two emails I received from Nick Di Scala in mid 1997. He can be reached at ndiscala@cwnet.com.

When he sent them to me he probably never expected them to show up word-for-word on this site but he has kindly consented to their display nonetheless.

Some of his comments are corrections that should eventually be incorporated into the other files at this site. Unfortunately I don't have the time right now. I trust that the true Ellis fan will bear with us in the meantime.

He also adds many details. In the interest of keeping the Info Sheet somewhat concise, I've chosen to reproduce them in this file for those of us that just can't get enough Ellis info. :)

Date: 18 Jun 97

Hi, Gordon,

I've been working with Dons estate for some time now about trying to put together an ongoing recording project of unreleased material from Dons library. I put together a demo tape of Dance Around the Beast, Creative Aggression!, After an Autumn Rain, Brash Brass Bash, and Dark Curved Eyebrows. Ive sent copies of the tape to several ex-band members including Glenn Stuart, Milcho Leviev, Tom Scott, Fred Selden, and Hank Levy. They were all very enthusiastic about the results and Milcho and Tom have agreed to play on the recording whenever it happens. Glenn would probably act as a producer on it. The big problem thus far has been finding anyone with the necessary capital (corporate or private) willing to involve themselves with a venture with a low profit return and larger than average up front costs. I also recently started up an octet to play and record 10 arrangements of Dons. This is more financially feasible but I began this at the wrong time of the year and scheduling problems have suspended the group until next winter. The prospects of this getting released are much better though.

Over the last year or so I also have been working with UNC Jazz Press about publishing some more of Dons charts (with cooperation from the estate). These are to be critical editions derived from the original score, performing parts, and recordings in Dons personal collection. They will also be prepared using Finale software. I have compiled a list of around 20 tunes that are most frequently requested from the library in Texas. Most of the tunes are Dons but there will be a few Levy charts and one from Fred Selden. First up will be Strawberry Soup.

But all that is currently besides the point for this e-mail at hand. I am writing to you with additional info and corrections for the web site. Theres a lot here but please dont construe that to be a criticism of your work. I really appreciate the fact that you had the desire, wherewithal and time to do what I and a lot of others feel is a very important contribution toward keeping Dons name and music alive. Thanks for all your work. Ill go in the order that you have the info on your page.

1) Im unfamiliar with the untitled? album you mention. Where did you get this info?

2) On the Monterey album, Passacaglia and Fugue is the Hank Levy chart you mention.

3) On Live in 3 2/3 4 Time, TomScotts solo is on saxello. This album also has a terrific chart on it called Orientation with Don contributing a wonderfully constructed and exciting solo. Thetis (by Levy) is also on this album but Orientation is the clear standout for the entire recording.

4) On Shock Treatment, the severe edits are actually very minor and virtually unnoticeable. I have copies of both versions of the album and, even knowing the problems Don referred to in a letter to Downbeats reviewer, I find it difficult to identify the places hes talking about (in New Kind of Country, by the way). As far as the two replaced tracks, this was on the liner notes only. Both versions of the album have the same tunes on them.

[Note added Apr 26, 2001 by Nick:
My notes to you about the Shock Treatment album were based on a really complicated situation that I thought I had all the info on. It turns out I didn't. (At this point, maybe I still don't.) If you've been reading the Don Ellis message board at imusic.com you'll know that we really got into this discussion. From what I've been able to deduce, there were three versions of the album. The first (which I thought I had) has the edits, shortened versions, etc. These are very severe unlike what I initially stated. It turns out I have two later versions. The "second" one corrected the album content but had the liner notes from the first release. The third version has the same recorded content as the second. The liner notes have been fixed on this version. (Though the labels on the record itself are still wrong.) This is why I thought the edits were minimal to negligible: I had two different packagings of the same recorded material. I assumed there were only two versions when there were three. I thought my "second" version was the first version and my "third" version the corrected (second) version. See what I mean about it being confusing?]

5) Autumn: I have the CD reissue and, unfortunately, the remix eliminates the stereo effects from the original LP that Don used so well on Variations for Trumpet.

6) Im not sure I totally agree with you on the Goes Underground album being for fanatics only. It has Bulgarian Bulge, Goood Feelin, Love for Rent, and Ferris Wheel on it which wouldnt be out of place on any of his better albums. The pop arrangements are also better here (I feel) than the ones on Connection. Im not fond of any of the vocal tracks but the arrangement of Its Your Thing is nice and Don does a very sensitive backup on Black Baby.

7) Fillmore: In referencing Hey Jude it is worth noting Dons remarkable use of the echo-plex during his cadenza in the middle of the tune. Im referring specifically to the Baroque canon treatment of the head. Compare this to anything Miles was doing at the time on the echo-plex and well, theres no comparison.

8) Tears of Joy: The Moonlight Sonata quote that you mention is not part of the actual chart. Milcho told me that he worked this out in his head shortly before the set but didnt tell anyone he was going to do it. Thus the surprised laughter from the band. It is also worth mentioning (even though I know you know it) that Strawberry Soup is on this album. One of Dons best compositions and still popular among Drum and Bugle Corps groups.

9) I think you arent giving Haiku enough credit. True, its a departure, but Don was always exploring new subjects and these frequently impressionistic takes have some terrific moments. The fugue in Children and all of Cherry Petals come easily to mind. You might also mention that the poems are provided with the liner notes and are the basis for the compositions.

10) Galaxies and Planets: This album was hurried together by Atlantic for marketing purposes. (This is why the band is suddenly called Survival.) Several tunes were rearranged, simplified and shortened for easier radio play. Get Closer became Arcturas; Awakening became Lyra (some good changes here); Off and Running became Pegasus (originally just a lead sheet and arranged here for the first time by Curt Berg); Lets Do It This Way For Awhile became Eros (the most severe and damaging edits of all, I feel); and Everythings Going to be Allright became Vulcan. My personal take on this album is that the playing and especially the soloing (with Dons Lyra solo the exception) sound uninspired and antiseptic.

11) Montreux: I would say this is more similar to Soaring and Tears of Joy. Its one of his best. Unlike Music from the band here is loose, enjoying itself immensely and roaring constantly.

12) There is another album that Don sold only at concerts and through his company (only on cassette). Its Don Ellis LIVE! (EME Records, EC-2) 1976. Recorded sometime around 1966 at UCLA with an octet that included Tom Scott. It is no longer available. Eight tunes (including Milestones in 7) that are stylistically similar to Monterey and Live in 3 2/3 4 Time though obviously less grandiose in treatment due to the combo limitations.

Thats all for that! Going on:
1) On the Ferguson album Newport Suite the tune Three More Foxes features Maynard, Don and Rick Kiefer in an extended trumpet battle. I dont think Im being impartial by declaring that Don wins this one handily with a surplus of wit, subtlety and virtuosity. Maynard competes by playing loud and high (surprise, surprise) though not anywhere near as crass as his later years and Kiefer sounds like a young kid trying to keep up with the pros. Someone told me there was another recording of this (possibly a live take) out there and it might be the one that Scott Agin is referring to.

2) Tommy Vig album: Don is obviously here as a sideman even though its only a quintet. He sounds uncharacteristically tired and uninspired, probably from his poor health. Good work from the others.

3) The NPR radio broadcast with the New York Phil. might be referring to a piece by Larry Austin (the title eludes me at the moment) that was recorded with Leonard Bernstein. I have a tape copy of this from Dons personal library but I think the album (which I may have the catalogue number for somewhere) has been out of print since the '70's. The Michel Legrand connection doesnt sound familiar at all.

4) Don wrote a piece for Charlie Byrd called Byrd of Paradise which may have been recorded in a combo form. There is also an orchestra/big band version of it.

Next section:
1) Im not clear why Monterey Jazz and Monterey Jazz Festival are under this heading. Likewise, Sounds of Summer: The Concord (note spelling) Jazz Festival. These might have been filmed but Im not aware that they were movies in the conventional sense.

2) In Tandem/Movin On: In Tandem is a cue written for the TV series Movin On, not a separate project.

3) Man Belongs to Earth was a piece he wrote for an environmental exhibit at the Worlds Fair.

4) Im not sure about Klute. Ill check my resources. But he did play on Candy and provided the electric trumpet work on Rosemarys Baby.

Under the Additional Notes section:
The Shirley MacLaine TV special entitled Where Do We Go From Here? featured a section prefaced by the Peter Allen song Everything Old Is New Again. The pretext being that a big band, complete with all sorts of electronics, synthesizers and amplification, in the hands of Ellis and his band, could take a standard such as Sweet Georgia Brown and give it a brand new sound. Shirley and a group of dancers danced around the band while they played an extremely witty and very characteristically Ellis-ian theme and variations arrangement of the chestnut that Don called Sweet Shirley MacLaine. He briefly used the echo-plex, ring modulator and Super Bone (no Vocoder) during a call and response section with some tap dancers. For what its worth, I think it was on CBS.

Under Albums of Related Interest:
1) Milchos album also contains Isaacs Touchstone which, in its Tears of Joy orchestration, was in the bands book.

2) Free Flight Soaring (Palo Alto Jazz Records PA 8050-N) 1983. With Milcho and Ralph Humphrey. Features Heartbeat by Milcho, dedicated to Don.

3) Free Flight The Jazz/Classical Union (Palo Alto Jazz Records PA 8024) 1982. With Micho and Ralph. Features Milchos compositions Pavanne for a True Musical Prince Dons Song and Peasant Dance which is a retitled (and rearranged for quartet) version of Fire Dance which was in Dons bands book.

4) John Klemmer Brazilia (ABC Records AA-1116, 1979). Includes the following in the liner notes: A special prayer and warm memory for Don Ellis whose zest for life and musical innovations were an inspiration to me. The time spent with him and his bands shall remain a most important experience in my life. Wherever Don is right now, Im sure he is putting a new band together.

5) Also, the main tune from Michos Sladka Pitka is also found on an old Paul Winter Consort album. I forget the name of the album and tune, Ill have to look it up. It is obviously a folk melody that Milcho used as the basis for his chart which, by the way, had an original title of Relaxin Todora.

The material from Scott Harris also needs some annotations.

Under the Music Copyrights section:
1) The Connection album has been left off. I call this number 16. Of course, due to its limited release, the Don Ellis LIVE! album is not on the list as well. I call this number 17.

2) I havent checked the entire list to see if all the charts are on here. My notes below reflect only the charts listed.

3) As already stated, Arcturas is a newer and different version of Get Closer. It has been edited down from the original.

4) Assault on Paradise is the name of a film, not a single composition.

5) Like #3 above, Awakening is the first version, Lyra the second. For what its worth, I prefer Lyra.

6) Bali Dancer is on Don Ellis LIVE! and, therefore, should be marked with a #17.

7) It should be Bolero (Nueva), not Bolero (Nuera).

8) Chain Reaction should have a #16 by it.

9) Creative Aggression! (with an exclamation mark) is misspelled. One g, not two. By the way, its also incorrect on the score manuscript.

10) Eros is the very different revision of Lets Do It This Way For Awhile.

11) Despair to Hope should be labeled #6. Off the top of my head, I believe its From Despair to Hope.

12) Everythings Going to be Allright the original version of Vulcan. Also, not labeled with a #13.

13) French Connection I should be Theme from The French Connection and labeled with #16. The name Umbrella comes from the name of the original cue when Popeye is following Frog One through crowds, eventually into the subway, by keeping track of the umbrella hes holding. (Am I full of trivia, or what?)

14) I Love Us should have a #17 by it.

15) Image of Maria is on the same line as Im Going To Go Home.

16) Improvisational Suites #1 and #2 along with In a Turkish Bath are all on the same line. In a Turkish Bath should also have a #15 by it.

17) Indian Lady should be labeled with #15, not #14.

18) Its a Snap should be labeled with #17.

19) Lets Do It This Way For Awhile should be labeled #13. It is also the original version of what later became Eros.

20) As stated above, Lyra is the revised version of Awakening.

21) Im not positive of Mission Impossible #25, Room #2 and My. Ill check on these.

22) The title should be O Soli Mio not just Soli Mio and, therefore, no 0 next to it.

23) Off and Running (alias Pegasus) needs a #13.

24) Open Wide needs a #1. (Whats the asterisk for?)

25) Ostinato needs a #8.

26) Petes 7 needs a #17.

27) Quiet Longing (as Im sure youre aware) is an arrangement of one of the tunes from Future: Tense.

28) Sadness Shouldnt Go So Deep needs a #17.

29) Sidonie wasnt composed by Don. I cant remember the guys name, but its on the liner notes of the album.

30) As mentioned earlier, Sladka Pitka had an earlier title of Relaxin Todora.

31) Slippin and Slidin needs a #17.

32) Im not sure that 332221222 is common law. Ill check.

33) The spelling should be The Tihai, not Tahai.

34) As #13 above, Umbrella should probably have a #16 even though its substantially different from Theme from

35) Waste is by Jaki Byard.

36) Zim isnt on #9; only the title due to wrong liner notes.

37) General question: Why are some of the contributing composers charts listed and not all?

Well thats it. If you want to reach me this e-mail address is only temporary so I suggest writing or calling me at:

Nick Di Scala
1309 26th Ave., #1
San Francisco, CA  94122
U. S. A.
(415) 566-0480
Again, great job and I hope this info helps you. Take care.
A few days later Nick added:

Date: 19 Jun 97 16:33:38 EDT
Subject: more Ellis info

Hi, Gordon,

I checked some of the questions I had in the e-mail I sent you yesterday. I got clarification on most of them. I'm still looking for some documents at home and I'll be going over Scott Harris' list with mine for any ommissions/corrections.

Here's what I got:
1) The date of the "Don Ellis LIVE!" album is 4/8/67.

2) The NewYork Phil. item is two things: a Young People's Concert broadcast in Jan. or Feb. of 1964 and an album. The piece was Larry Austin's "Improvisation for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists" and was recorded for an album called "Leonard Bernstein Conducts Music of Our Time". I don't have the catalogue number for this but it was probably with Columbia since that's where Bernstein had his recording contract at the time.

3) I have a note to myself that says the Charlie Byrd piece "Byrd of Paradise" was recorded but I have no info on what album.

4) I thought "In Tandem" was a cue for the TV show "Movin' On". The way this looks on my list (which is the current copyrighted compositions list -- with mistakes, I might add) is "In Tandem (Movin' On)" which leads me to suspect that "In Tandem" was the original name of the show. That's just a guess. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the brains in Hollywood changed it because not enough people would know what "in tandem" meant. They did this with the Bond movie "License to Kill" because the marketing dept. concluded the core audience didn't know what "License Revoked" meant.

5) I wrote "Man Belongs to the Earth". The correct title is as you have it: "Man Belongs to Earth".

6) The Shirley MacLaine special was in Dec. of 1976, I'm still not sure about the network.

7) The Paul Winter Consort album with the tune from "Sladka Pitka" is "Something in the Wind" (A & M SP 4207). The tune is called "Theodora is Dozing"; the composition credit is listed as "Trad. Bulg.". Remember the original title of Milcho's was "Relaxin' Todora".

8) "Despair to Hope" is the correct title, not "From Despair to Hope" as I thought.

9) "Mission Impossible #25" is okay. "Room #2" is in the "description" column of "Moondrops"; I have no idea wht it means but it is definitely not a composition. "My" seems to be okay. It's such a bizarre title though that I think it's part of something else. There are a couple other instances of shorthand titles making it as separate pieces. It's just a hunch.

10) The composer of "Sidonie" is Alexej Fried.

11) "332221222" is listed as common law copyright. I'm not certain what that actually means. To my uninformed brain, common law sounds the same as public domain and, therefore, common law copyright seems a contradiction in terms, but I'm sure I'm wrong about that. Perhaps you know more about the legal subtleties of copyright than I and could fill me in.

12) I may know something about "Klute" when I find the rest of my materials.

That's it for now. Talk to you later.