Don Ellis Day

July 25, 1934 – December 17, 1978

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Trumpeter, drummer, composer and bandleader Don Ellis was born on July 25, 1934 in Los Angeles, California.

After a brief stint in the army, Ellis moved to New York City and became involved in the avant-garde scene, playing with Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, and George Russell.

The highly versatile Ellis led his own explorations of classical music and world music traditions, experimenting with time signature, key, and microtonal music.

His first job as a professional musician was with the Glenn Miller band.

In 1956 he left the group to join the Seventh Army Symphony and Soldiers’ Show Company military band for two years in Frankfurt, Germany before returning to settle in New York’s Greenwich Village.

He became immersed in the avant-garde jazz scene shortly thereafter appering on albums by Charles Mingus, George Russell, and Eric Dolphy.

As a trumpeter and bandleader, Don began first began blending bop and free jazz experimenting with small groups before assembling his first Orchestra in 1965.

His big bands differed from the norm for their use of multiple percussionists and bassists, odd time signatures, and at times a strange sense of humor accentuated by an overuse of false endings.

Don Ellis is featured during his big band’s appearance at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival.


Don Ellis, trumpet, composer, & arranger
Glenn Stuart, trumpet
Gil Rather, trumpet
Jack Coan, trumpet
Alan Kaplan, trombone
Ann Patterson, reeds
Ted Nash, reeds
James Coile, reeds
Jim Snodgrass, reeds
Sidney Muldrow, french horn
Richard Bullock, bass trombone
Randy Kerber, keyboards
Pam Tompkins, violin
Lori Badessa, violin
Jimbo Ross, viola
Paula Hochhalter, cello
Jim Self, Tuba
Leon Gaer, bass
Darrell Clayborn, bass
David Crigger, drums
Chino Valdes, congas
Michael Englander, percussion
Ruth Ritchie, percussion


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