Don Ellis

Don Ellis (July 25, 1934 - December 17, 1978) was an American jazz trumpeter, drummer, composer and bandleader. He is best known for his extensive musical experimentation, particularly in the area of unusual time signatures. Later in his life he worked as a film composer, among other works contributing a score to 1971's The French Connection and 1973's The Seven-Ups. Ellis was born in Los Angeles, CA on July 25, 1934. His father was a Methodist minister and his mother a church organist. He attended West High School in Minneapolis, MN. It was after seeing a Tommy Dorsey Big Band concert that he first became interested in jazz. Other early inspirations were Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. He graduated from Boston University in 1956 with a composition degree. Ellis' first job was with the Glenn Miller band, directed by Ray McKinley. He stayed with the band until September, 1956, when he joined the Seventh Army Symphony and Soldiers' Show Company. He was sent to Frankfurt, Germany. In the Army band, Ellis met pianist Cedar Walton, and saxophonists Eddie Harris and Don Menza. It was also in this band that Ellis got his first opportunity to write for a big band.


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