JJ 02/70: Don Ellis – The Don Ellis Band Goes Underground

First published in Jazz Journal February 1970


While one could wholeheartedly recommend this album to those who enjoy progressive rock, it is difficult to know whether readers of this magazine will find it of interest. There are spots of jazz, a few good solos but the approach and the rhythms are straight rock. Also several soul vocals by Patti Allen crop up. Miss Allen is no jazz singer. She purveys the contemporary brand of uncomplicated (and strained) shouting which has no room for subtlety and projects only a raw, naive type of feeling. She is in this bag on Higher, Send My Baby Back and It’s Your Thing. On Black Baby she gives a simple recitation accompan-ed by Ellis’ flugelhorn – quite effective in its way.

The band has a lot of verve going for it but in this programme the material is frequently of slight substance and one gets the impres­sion that the various electronic effects at the outfit’s disposal are being used for their own sake, rather than with any musical end in view.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the orchestra is the employment of the constricted rock beat which is the very antithesis of what big band jazz drumming is about. In the Ellis Band, and indeed the current Buddy Rich Band, it seems that what Chick Webb, Sid Catlett, Dave Tough and Don Lamond stood for in the sphere of a percussionist driving a band by his skill and rhythmic invention has been forgotten. Instead Ellis and Rich have settled for the retarded, socked out beat of their musical infants. This may well be a counter reaction to the jazz drummers who have lost the pulse because they are so busy soloing all the time. Be that as it may, to anyone who has been moved by the tightness of Kenny Clarke’s brushes, the ecstatic momentum of Elvin Jones or the melodic richness of Max Roach, the leaden thumping of Ralph Humphrey and Rick Quintinal on these sides is anathema. In the past the Ellis Band has shown itself capable of much better things than these in­consequential efforts. If this is to be their future pattern they may as well stay under­ground – well and truly buried.
Mark Gardner

House In The Country; Don’t Leave Me; Higher; Bulgarian Bulge; Eli’s Comin’; Acous­tical Lass (19 min) – Good Feelin’; Send My Baby Back; Love For Rent; It’s Your Thing; Ferris Wheel; Black Baby (23¼ min)
Don Ellis (¼ tone tpt/el-tpt/ring modulator/flg-h); Glenn Stuart (tpt/flg-h/¼ tone tpt); Stu Blumberg (tpt/flg-h/¼ tone tpt); John Rosenberg (tpt/flg-h/¼ tone tpt): Jack Coan (tpt/flg-h/¼ tone tpt); Jock Ellis, Glenn Ferris (tbn); Dana Hughes (bs-tbn); Doug Bixby (tu); Fred Seldon (flt/clt/alt/sop); Lonnie Shetter (clt/flt/oboe/alt/sop); Sam Falzone (clt/flt/ten); Hadley Caliman (flt/ten): Mike Altschul (flt/clt/bs-clt/bari): Pete Robinson (pno/ fender-pno/ring modulator/clavinet/harpsichord); Jay Graydon (gtr); Joe Julian (bs); Carol Kaye (bs); Ralph Hum­phrey (dm/vib/misc. perc); Rick Quintinal (dm/vib/misc. perc); Lee Pastora (cng-d/bgs/shaker/cow bells); Patti Allen, The Blossoms (vcl); Don Ellis, Fred Selden (arr). 1969.
Personnel on Eli’s Comin’: Ellis, Stuart, Blumberg, Rosen­berg, Coan (tpt); George Bohanon, Ferris. Hughes (tbn); Bixby (tu); Ron Starr (clt/alt); Selden, Falzone, John Klemmer (flt/ten); Jon Clarke (clt/bari); Robinson (pno); Graydon (gtr); Gary Todd (bs); Humphrey (dm); Gene Strimling (perc); Pastora (perc). 1969.
CBS 63680 37s 6d