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Shock Treatment by Don Ellis

Trumpeter Don Ellis led some of the most innovative big band music in the late 1960's and early 1970's. His orchestras could be creative to the point of being wild. The CD reissue of the 1968 release Shock Treatment employs multiple bassists and percussionists, experiments with unusual time signatures like 7/4, and uses rock rhythms that anticipate the fusion movement. Overall this is a decent, but non-essential collection of Don Ellis' big band work.

Shock Treatment is a very eclectic album. Bluesy tracks like "A New Country" and "Rasty" had bell-bottomed teenagers dancing in rock 'n' roll ballrooms. "The Tihai" recalls Don's experiments with Indian musical elements in the Hindustani jazz sextet. "Night City" and "Star Children" use groovy, spaced out vocals that, so modern then, ironically date the music immediately to the psychedelic era. On the other hand, Ellis plays a very traditional version of the standard "I Remember Clifford" in 4/4 time no less!

This album goes in several very different directions at once. That however, is very representative of what was happening in jazz in 1968 and is what makes this reissue interesting. Miles Davis was embracing jazz/rock on Miles in the Sky and Filles de Kilimanjaro. Alice Coltrane had abandoned traditional jazz concepts like swing altogether for a totally organic sound on A Monastic Trio. Buddy Rich was playing big band arrangements of soul jazz and pop tunes (wearing a black tunic and colorful love beads) on his release Mercy, Mercy.

Beyond the elements of what is now kitsch, Ellis displays the chops he earned playing with Maynard Ferguson's big band and jazz pioneer George Russell's sextet among others. He has a fine solo on the soulful blues," Homecoming", playing the four valve trumpet he invented. He positively cooks on the introduction to "Beat Me Daddy, Seven to the Bar". He also is featured on "Zim" which was released on the first pressing of the album although the liner notes referred to a version that had the baritone saxophonist John Magruder soloing. The reissue restores both takes.

Reissue producer, Donald Elfman has been producing jazz for many years. He's produced several great recordings including the classic Phineas Newborn record Here Is Phineas. Along with Shock Treatment, he produced a reissue of another early fusion record, Duster by Gary Burton a few years ago. Hopefully, the success of these projects will spark interest in reissues of more essential Don Ellis music in the vaults like the album Autumn.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Don Ellis
  • CD Title: Shock Treatment
  • Genre: Fusion
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Koch Jazz
  • Rating: Five Stars
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