Donald Johnson Ellis 1934-1978, the Man... his Times and most importantly his Music is explored in the Feature Length Documentary Film, ELECTRIC HEART -don ellis.
The Story of the one of the most innovative Composer, Arranger, Writer and Musicians' of all time, Ellis was the first to create a fusion between Jazz-Rock & Classical music.
Pulitzer winning Composer Gunther Schuller appears explaining Ellis as the advent of his own coined phrase The Third Stream".
Debuting his Orchestra in 1966 at The Monterey Jazz Festival, his New Horizons" Band gave a performance that still stands as the greatest in the history of the oldest Jazz Festival and includes restored footage with interviews from the band's members.
The late Maynard Ferguson, Jazz Legend explains Ellis as a Composer was never satisfied with a certain sound and one that was content with Experimentation before Entertainment."
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Minneapolis, the son of a Minister and Pianist Mother... he became known with his odd metered arrangements during his College years at Boston University. Schuller (New England Conservatory President at the time) introduced Ellis to Leornard Bernstein and a National Television audience viewed Ellis for the first time for The Young People's Concert in 1964.
After a stint overseas in The Army, Ellis settled in New York City and quickly became the talk of the town. He had a Trumpet designed by Larry Ramirez (Interviewee) of The Leblanc-Holton Company that had 4 valves instead of 3 and was 1/4 tone. This had never been done and became the signature sound of Don Ellis.
Columbia Records signed Ellis for a long stint with Legendary Producer John Hammond.
Ellis then moved back to his native LA and during the late 1960's often headlined above Rock Groups such as The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company. No other Jazz act for the exception of Miles Davis was marketed in such a way. Ellis and his Tears of Joy" Band became known throughout the world as some of the best musicians ever assembled including (interviewed for the film) Milcho Leviev, Fred Selden, Sam Falzone and Ralph Humphrey.
Although nominated several times The Grammy Award alluded him until 1972 when he won for Best Instrumental Arrangement for the Academy Award Winning Motion Picture The French Connection" that he scored. Ellis also composed the music for the sequel Film as well as seven other major Film's in his career.
There was simply nothing like Ellis, not Mingus, not Miles, not JJ Johnson... and Ellis took Jazz to greater heights and never bothered to look back. He mixed complex Indian rhythms with his fantastic Hindustani Sextet" and his electrified big Bands, turned heads at Tanglewood, Concord and Montreux.
Where Ken Burns (JAZZ, PBS) stops Filmmaker John Vizzusi's ELECTRIC HEART -don ellis begins, explaining that Jazz did not not die in the 60's as Burn's argues but was actually Jazz's most exciting times!
Mary McKitrick supplies the rich textured and dramatic Narration as Ellis realizes that life will be short since diagnosed with a faulty heart valve. Drug free his whole life Ellis looked for his high in the one of kind Music he created.
He died (heart attack) in Los Angeles at the young age of 44 in 1978.
Jazz had to Invent a New Term when it came to Don Ellis" -- Maynard Ferguson
The Most Innovative Jazz Orchestra of all time... The Don Ellis Band" --Leornard Feather
One of the Greatest Musicians of the 20th Century, Don Ellis" --Downbeat
ELECTRIC HEART -don ellis
Sights & Sounds Films presents
A Documentary Film by: John Vizzusi
Executive Producer: Anthony Czarnik
Produced by: Mike Kaiser & Robert Usher
Associate Producer & Assistant Director: Leah Farrar
Narration by: Mary McKitrick
Additional Music by: Milcho Leviev
Research: John Killoch (UK), Paul Karting (Netherlands), Ken Orton (France), Fred Selden & Emilie Robertson (USA)
Featuring testimonials from Maynard Ferguson, Milcho Leviev, Sam Falzone, Fred Selden, Paul Bogosian, Ralph Humphrey with a special appearance by Pulitizer Winning Composer, Gunther Schuller Locations: Minneapolis, Buffalo, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami & Los Angeles
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