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Don Ellis - Connection CD (album) cover


Don Ellis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.93 | 8 ratings

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Easy Money
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars There's probably enough cheeeze on this one to have most excusing themselves from the table and claiming lactose intolerance, but if you have a taste for the cheeeze, this is some damn good cheeeze! Although Don Ellis is usually known for his innovative big band jazz that combines international odd metered rhythms, concert hall compositions and exotic instrumentation, here he keeps a lot of those progressive tendencies, but eschews all seriousness and applies his techniques to a variety of pop, RnB and prog-rock cover tunes that occasionally get a little too silly, but are often more fun and listenable than some of his more serious work. His band is on fire here and they take to the material with hyper energy and super tight ensemble playing.

The album opens with The Crusader's classic Put it Where You Want it, which is given a faster tempo and a few Ellis styled odd metered turnarounds that keep launching the melody forward in a perpetual motion. Throughout this album Ellis and his top notch arrangers alter these tunes by dropping a beat in the chorus or jumbling parts together in polyphonic fashion which gives each tune a rebirth and a sense of energy that verges on chaos. (JC) Superstar is manic, and like many of the tunes utilizes spare vocal snippets in the chorus for humorous and sarcastic effect.

Instrumental progressive rock covers are hard to come by, which makes the appearance of classics like Conquistador and Roundabout such a treat. Conquistador's melody is given a face-lift with some odd metered phrasing and the chorus swings Vegas style as Ellis builds it up with an excellent trumpet solo. Roundabout makes for an excellent big band tune as the driving verse riff is a natural for a jazz horn section. The band romps through all the changes that are also subjected to their usual rhythmic innovations.

There are many excellent tunes on here, but my favorite is The Carpenter's Goodbye to Love which manages to be both powerful and sarcastic at the same time. It's so amazing when an artist can be profound and self-deprecating in the same stroke. Some of the best works by folks like David Bowie and Miles Davis fall into this category. Goodbye opens with Ellis giving the maudlin melody some sincerity as well as humor, once again recalling Miles' ability to make someone else's tune his own with a mixture of pathos and sly mischief. The middle guitar solo is sublime cheeeze that recalls LA flavored 80s TV car chase scenes before the band builds to an epic prog-rock flavored closing with a powerful repeating odd- metered chorus, massive big band buildup with screaming trumpet and whistling synthesizer sounds.

It's interesting to note that two of Ellis' band members would soon be joining Billy Cobham's mini 'big band' for the outstanding Shabazz album ie Glen Ferris on trombone and the incredible Milcho Leviev on keyboards. Likewise drummer Ralph Humphrey would soon be joining Zappa's group, another seemingly Ellis influenced mini big band.

Cheeeze - Check

Lounge shark - Check

Excellent record - Check Mate!!!

Easy Money | 4/5 |


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