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Don Ellis - The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground Featuring Patti Allen CD (album) cover


Don Ellis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.00 | 3 ratings

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Easy Money
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The music of Don Ellis and his big band tends to come in one, or in a combination, of three different flavors; 1) odd-metered progressive exotic proto-fusion, 2) cutting edge current styles of the competitive collegiate big-band scene, or ') All out lounge-shark tongue-in- cheek Vegas cheeeze. This album, Don Ellis Goes Underground, is almost all the third option and none of the other two, but that doesnt mean this isnt a great album. All the playing, arranging, writing and production on here is top notch. As much as I like Ellis progressive material, when he decides to go for the lounge-core sound he is one of the very best, in a league with the true eccentrics like Tartaglia, Les Baxter and Henry Mancini. The ensemble playing on here is incredibly tight and very high energy, and despite the more commercial direction of this album, you still get some of Ellis trademark progressive tendencies.

The song Bulgarian Bulge, midway through side one, is furiously paced odd-metered Bulgarian party music played with flawless precision. This song showcases Dons interest at that time in Bulgarian music, an interest that lead him to bring several Bulgarian fusion artists to the states. This migration eventually led to Milcho Levievs brilliant keyboard work with Billy Cobham. Elsewhere on this side Ellis and his band play the high energy pop classic, Elis Coming, straight ahead without any sign of irony for a sonic blast of pure big band euphoria.

This album proudly advertises that it features RnB vocalist Patty Allen, but she only shows up on a couple cuts, mostly for good effect though. Her vocals on Higher (not the Sly Stone song) recreates a 60s kitsch soul vibe that recalls cult musical time capsules like Hair and JC Superstar. This album also features the ultimate session lizard faux psychedelic-soul wannabe guitarist Jay Graydon and his always eager and hyper wah-wah pedal which adds so much to Ellis albums in this style.

This album opens with a huge wall of metallic ring-modulated tones from Ellis trumpet that sounds like the ultimate Armageddon between Stockhausen and Sun Ra and then immediately shifts into a groovy big band groove made for a 60s GTO commercial. Some people get musical style and irony, David Bowies gets it, so did Miles Davis. God bless you Don Ellis.

Easy Money | 3/5 |


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