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Don Ellis - Electric Bath (The Don Ellis Orchestra) CD (album) cover

ELECTRIC BATH (THE DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA)

Don Ellis

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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js (Easy Money)
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3 stars Released in late 1967, Electric Bath shows Ellis already using the odd-metered rhythms and exotic instrumentation that will be trademarks of his big band for the rest of his career. Likewise, the album also shows him leaning a bit towards rock, although I think to a lot of young people parts of this album could sound like late show type jazz, or even Vegas styled big band lounge music. Although not as 'proggy' or rockin as some of Ellis' later work, he definitely was breaking the pre-existing big band mold with this recording by using electronic keyboards, percussion from around the world, and some influences from modern concert hall music as well.

Side one is the more aggressive side with Ellis and crew rocking out a bit old school style, with loud brassy punches and choruses, and a driving group of drummers and percussionists. This Side closes with the song Electric Bath,, something that might appeal to fans of Zappa's late 60s - early 70s big band music with it's snaky atonal melody and middle odd-metered groove section. Ellis' influence on Zappa's music is obvious during this time period.

On side two things get a bit more interesting when the big band fades to more of a background orchestra as percussion and echoed electric pianos provide atmosphere. Open Beauty starts like a modern acid jazz tune with spacey Fender Rhodes sounds before Ellis' mini-orchestra slowly fills in the background. This side is the more 'exotic' side also with drums often replaced by congas, tablas and other percussion instruments, it also contains Ellis' infamous trumpet solo through an echoplex, one of the first jazz solos ever recorded this way. Loved by the California youth that Don was starting to appeal to, but hated by the jazz critics, this solo brought Ellis a lot of attention, but not all of it good.

The album closer, New Horizons, opens with neo-classical melodies before a beatnik bongo beat drives a trio of flutes in an intertwining cool jazz improv; five finger snaps! Later, mellow Debussy horn harmonies are topped with another Ellis horn solo while Mike Lang's electric piano echoes in the background. Finally more hard groovin odd-metered horn driven jazz takes us to some modern orchestrated diversions and the final big horn showdown.

While fans of Soft Machine III thru V, and early Frank Zappa might find some music to like here, I think a lot of rockers would be turned off by some of the old school big band jazz sounds.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#245908)
Posted Friday, October 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
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2 stars This is Big Band music, so just be ready for that or leave it alone.

I have difficult relations with Big Bands, what means I like to hear some first minutes of them playing somewhere on regular jazz Fest, but it usually becomes boring during ten -fifteen minutes.

This album happily is different. Formally using a big band as musicians resources, Don Ellis adds some unusual (for big bands music) rhythms, complex compositions 'structures and electric keyboards. So - even if it sounds as jazz orchestra music, there are some classical, rock influences in sound and even some unusual psychedelic moments. In some compositions orchestra is used just as supporting band for few soloing musicians.

So - even if still big band music, open ears listener can really find more interesting moments there. What doesn't mean this album is jazz-fusion though. Just some roots of the future jazz fusion experimentalism, hardly more.

The album for collectors and early fusion researchers.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#293448)
Posted Thursday, August 05, 2010 | Review Permalink

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