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Don Ellis - At Fillmore CD (album) cover


Don Ellis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.04 | 4 ratings

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Easy Money
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Don Ellis and his big band turned the jazz world upside down in the mid to late 60s with experimental jazz that fused odd-metered rhythms, rock energy, exotic instruments and electronics in a big band setting. By the time we get to 1970 Ellis has seemingly cooled his jets a bit with some slightly more conservative releases until we get to this amazing blast of energy, Don Ellis at Fillmore. I'm not sure which is the ultimate Don Ellis album, but side one plus parts of three and four on this four sided release come pretty close. Side one opens with classic high energy Ellis with lots of percussion break downs and crazy ring modulator effects on Don's trumpet. The live versions of previous studio releases on here are almost unrecognizable as the tempos are so much faster and the playing is so much more intensely on the verge of chaos than on the studio releases.

This being a Don Ellis album there is some inevitable big band cheeze that might be difficult for someone with a rock background to appreciate. After side one's high speed chaos, side two starts off with more traditional big band fare on The Blues and carries on in this manner until the second half of Rock Odyssey (I know, it sounds like a Spinal Tap title) picks up the tempo a bit. Side three opens with Ellis playing his trumpet through an echoplex and ring modulator to create huge soundscapes on a level with Sun Ra and Stockhausen. From here perrenial studio guitarist and lounge meister supreme, Jay Graydon, enters with sarcastic psychedelic guitar and leads the band in a bizarre deconstructionist cover of Hey Jude complete with Zappasque polka sections and a big buildup tease that never quite happens. This side continues with some rockin moments mixed with sophisticated orchestrated ballad like moments. Side four opens with more big band fusion in odd-metered grooves, saxophonist Lonnie Shetter turns in a crazed solo on Great Divide that seems to channel the frenetic style of John Gilmore from Sun Ra's big band. The album closes with more Ellis classics played with renewed enthusiasm and almost avant-garde solos.

This is a big band album and very much for people who love jazz in many of its facets, but for the curious fusion/rocker who wants to hear the roots of bands like Soft Machine, Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson and countless fusion bands, it all starts with Don Ellis in the mid-60s. There are a number of performers on here that went on to play in similar ensembles led by George Duke, Frank Zappa and Billy Cobham. In a sense, Ellis became a training ground for future jazz fusion mini-big bands

Easy Money | 3/5 |


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