25 July 2006
DON ELLIS - SHOCK TREATMENT
Ellis released Shock Treatment, his second studio album, in 1968. On this release, Ellis again took advantage of the studio environment to sculpt a sophisticated production that combines eclectic compositions, exotic time signatures, electronic effects, and polished ensemble performances. Shock Treatment also contains Ellis's first recording utilizing a vocal group as part of the ensemble on selections titled "Star Children" and "Night City." The 7/4 selection titled "The Tihai" was presumably motivated by Ellis's studies with Hari Har Rao and illustrates Ellis's liberated use of rhythmic superimpositions over meters with exotic time signatures. Tihai is an Indian musical term that describes a thrice-repeated rhythm played in such a manner that the last note of the phrase is elided with the first beat of a new measure. On the recording, the orchestra engages in vocally presenting the tihai using Indian rhythmic syllables in the middle of the selection. Rhythmic superimpositions that first appear in Shock Treatment ultimately became a major component in Ellis's rhythmic vocabulary.
Don Ellis was such a talented trumpeter, composer, and organizer that everything he recorded as a leader has at least some unusual moments worth exploring. His big bands were characterized by big brassy arrangements, odd meters that somehow always swung, lots of trumpet solos by Ellis, and an often visceral excitement.This late recording of Ellis' band is filled with all these traits, and thus exudes lots of excitement and electricity. At this stage in his career, the trumpeter seemed to be searching for a breakthrough, perhaps on a popular level. This manifests itself with occasional Age of Aquarius vocals and spacy harmonies that appeal to a broad audience. Even the more commercial tracks delight with unconventional characteristics, despite their somewhat compromising nature. There is plenty of the "old" Ellis in full view, however, as the band rocks with its well-known and only half in jest "Beat Me Daddy, Seven to the Bar." Ellis was an emotionally powerful and technically proficient player, something that is sometimes overlooked; his feature on "I Remember Clifford" is a minor tour de force. The trumpeter wrote regularly for his band, but also attracted some outstanding composers, such as Hank Levy and Howlett Smith.Have a listen to Smith's "Opus 5"-recorded in one take-for a fantastic piece of slow building latin influenced big band stratospherics.Takes your breath away!