DON ELLIS — Shock Treatment (review)

DON ELLIS — Shock Treatment album cover Album · 1968 · Progressive Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
js
In 1966 Don Ellis turned the world of jazz, and particularly big band jazz, upside down with his concert and recording at The Monterey Jazz Festival that featured exotic instrumentation, internationally flavored odd-metered rhythms and psychedelic sounds and sensibilities. The follow up album, 'Electric Bath', continued in a similar vein, but unfortunately on 'Shock Treatment' Ellis falls off the beam slightly and delivers something a little more conventional. This isn't a bad album, but compared to 'Live at Monterey' there is a definite fall off in bold experimentation and exotic flavors. What I miss most about the earlier albums are the breakdown sections where Ellis would play trumpet against a backdrop of percussionists and the band would vary the texture per song in general. Instead, on 'Shock Treatment' the full ensemble is more persistent and the horn section blares away at times when some more sparse instrumentation would be nice for a change.

There are two songs on here that stand out. 'Star Children' is 60s psychedelic ambience with exotica Gregorian vocals, twinkling echoed celeste, sitar (of course) and a Spanish tinged Phrygian trumpet melody that recalls 'Sketches of Spain'. 'Zim', written by woodwinds player Jay Magruder, is just an excellent melody that fits well in a big band format. On both tunes though, as is the case on most of this album, Ellis can't help himself from breaking out the big horn buildups.

For aficionados of modern big band music, this album is superb. The playing, orchestrations, recording and production are outstanding, but for those looking for Ellis' contribution to the formative years of progressive fusion, this is not the best one to go with.
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