Shock Treatment

Don Ellis

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Shock Treatment Review

by Steve Loewy

Don Ellis was such a talented trumpeter, composer, and organizer that everything he recorded as a leader has at least some unusual moments worth exploring. His big bands were characterized by big brassy arrangements, odd meters that somehow always swung, lots of trumpet solos by Ellis, and an often visceral excitement. Although not equal to his best records such as Electric Bath, this late recording of Ellis' band is filled with all these traits, and thus exudes lots of excitement and electricity. At this stage in his career, the trumpeter seemed to be searching for a breakthrough, perhaps on a popular level. This manifests itself with occasional Age of Aquarius vocals and spacy harmonies that appeal to a broad audience. Even the more commercial tracks delight with unconventional characteristics, despite their somewhat compromising nature. There is plenty of the "old" Ellis in full view, however, as the band rocks with its well-known and only half in jest "Beat Me Daddy, Seven to the Bar." Ellis was an emotionally powerful and technically proficient player, something that is sometimes overlooked; his feature on "I Remember Clifford" is a minor tour de force. The trumpeter wrote regularly for his band, but also attracted some outstanding composers, such as Hank Levy and Howlett Smith. While the soloists (other than Ellis, of course) were not always of the caliber of some of the competition, they were at a somewhat disadvantage in that they had to learn to play in strange time signatures -- not an easy task.

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