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Ellis, Don: Soaring

Don Ellis was a trumpeter, drummer, bandleader, composer, arranger and author and had played and recorded with many of the great names in jazz. He was also known for his experimentation with odd time signatures. Knowing that, this isn't music that is easy to digest mainly due to its high complexity but that isn't to say this lacks melody because that is certainly not the case. Ellis released two albums for MPS Records; Soaring in 1973 and Haiku in 1974. Continuing the remastering of the MPS catalogue Edel AG brings you Soaring. There are no less than twenty-two musicians here so you can well imagine this is quite heady stuff.

"Whiplash" begins with big band rhythms having a cinematic '60s flair. Think the soundtrack to a detective serial and you wouldn't be far off the mark. The brass sound is huge with great funky bass and a searing trumpet solo to round things out. The most complex track is likely "Sladka Pitka" featuring numerous change ups, a slinking bass groove and an explosive horn section. Despite its complexity the track has a nice flow and rock fans may enjoy this one simply because it rocks pretty hard and includes other elements such as a wonderful electric piano solo. The intriguingly titled "The Devil Made Me Write This Piece" with its samba influence emphasizes the diversity of these songs. "Go Back Home" melds R&B and jazz hitting the mark with some really infectious rhythms and melodies. With "Invincible" saxophonist Vince Denham lays down some amazing solos before the melancholic "Image Of Maria" pulls at the heartstrings with its gorgeously sweet melody. The disc ends with "Nicole", another slow but beautiful track emphasizing Ellis' wonderful trumpet tones as the musicians demonstrate a certain finesse marking a nice contrast to the album's heavier moments. It's a wistful ending to a very fine album and one every jazz fan should have in their collection. Simply outstanding!

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing:
1. Whiplash (4:25)
2. Sladka Pitka (6:40)
3. The Devil Made Me Write This Piece (6:00)
4. Go Back Home (3:15)
5. Invincible (6:43)
6. Image Of Maria (3:03)
7. Sidonie (6:37)
8. Nicole (5:29)

Added: December 10th 2017
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Label's Official Site
Hits: 1365
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ellis, Don: Soaring
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-12-10 07:00:28
My Score:

Soaring is the 1973 release from the Don Ellis band, basically a large scale 'big band' who played some ferocious jazz-fusion and featured over 20 musicians on various horns, reeds, keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, and strings. Leading the pack is Ellis, who contributes trumpet, flugelhorn, and drums on one track. Opening cut "Whiplash", a Hank Levy song, is as bombastic as it gets, with funky rhythms and a kick ass horn section, and it's followed up by the equally rhythmic "Sladka Pitka", which features a wild electric piano solo, rumbling drums, and the horns & reeds blazing. The Ellis original "The Devil Made Me Write This Piece" (great title!) also brings the funk along with some intensely complex arrangements, while "Go Back Home" rocks hard in big band fashion. The band takes a bit of a breather on the airy, atmospheric "Invincible", another Ellis original composition, which highlights some lovely sax solos, and that's followed up by another song by the leader, the heartfelt "Image of Maria", with gentle piano and soaring trumpet providing the emotional melodies. Rounding out the album is the quirky, Latin jazz flavored "Sidonie" and the hazy, lounge jazz of "Nicole", the latter swirling with sultry piano courtesy of Milcho Leviev, soaring strings, and smokey trumpet.

This MPS reissue is highly recommended, and another example of a forgotten 70's jazz fusion album that you'll definitely want to add to your collection.

» Reader Comments:

Ellis, Don: Soaring
Posted by Richard Higgins on 2017-12-08 11:13:55
My Score:

Great review of one of my favorite albums by Don Ellis! This is the same version of the band that recorded the live "Tears Of Joy" album, with Bulgarian pianist Milcho Leviev in the band. I think of the Don Ellis Orchestra as a fusion band in a big-band context. Don was ahead of his time and left us far too soon.

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