Don Ellis (1934 - 1978) was an innovative jazz trumpeter who led far-out big bands in the late 1960's to mid 1970's. His music is characterized by unusual time signatures (including the wonderfully-titled "Pussy Wiggle Stomp" in 7/4 time and "33 222 1 222" in 19/4 time) and instrumentations. In particular he is famous for using a quarter-tone trumpet, which allowed him to play notes in between the notes you find on the piano. He also used a ring modulator and other electronic devices to give different sounds.

I was skeptical at first, thinking that these were just gimmicks. Then I found a used double album of his band Live at the Fillmore for $2. The album swings and rocks and rules. No gimmicks, just innovation and raw creativity.

More biographical details: Born in Los Angeles (full name: Donald Johnson Ellis) and died in Hollywood of a heart attack. He graduated from Boston University and played in big bands of Ray McKinley, Charlie Barnet and Maynard Ferguson. He played in the George Russell sextet in 1961-2.

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