DON ELLIS — Live at Montreux (review)

DON ELLIS — Live at Montreux album cover Live album · 1978 · Progressive Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
js
Released in 1978, 'Live at Montreux' is Don Ellis' last record before his untimely death due to heart problems. This isn't Ellis' best album, but it's still excellent modern big band music, just not as progressive or psychedelic as some of his other releases. Early in his career Ellis presented an innovative big band jazz music that featured odd-metered rhythms and exotic instrumentation that proved to be a blueprint for artists such as King Crimson, Frank Zappa and The Soft Machine. Fast forward to the late 70s and times have changed. Due to the new found popularity of commercialized jazz fusion, as well as an increase in excellent high profile college big band programs, big band music was back, but with a new late 70s fusion flavor. Thad Jones, Chuck Mangione, Quincey Jones and Maynard Ferguson were reaching a whole new crowd of college aged jazz fans, as well as the new post-hippie yuppie crowd that wanted to put away their boogie rock and dig something a little more urban and grown-up. All of this was certainly having an impact on Ellis at this point in his career.

Two songs on here stand out above the rest. 'Future Feature' hit's a classic prog rock fusion Oberheim odd-metered bass line that drives solos from the horns, saxes and violins leading to many complicated arrangement change-ups and the final big buildup from the full horn and string section that recalls Mahavishnu Orchestra's album with an additional 'orchestra'. 'Sporting Dance' is hard driving and intense hippie acid jazz with film noir melodies and a long solo(s) between two battling trombones against a Cobham/Bitches Brew inspired manic drum section.

Elsewhere we get sophisticated and slightly avant-garde takes on popular late 70s music such as disco and Brazilian dance rhythms, as well late 70s styled slick intelligent big band music. If you are a fan of Don Ellis, there is much to like here. If you are looking for an introduction to some of his more progressive material, you may want to look elsewhere.
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