Don Ellis Collection, 2000.02

Don(ald Johnson) Ellis was a jazz trumpeter, drummer, bandleader, touring performer, recording artist, composer, and arranger. Born in Los Angeles in on July 25, 1934, he died of a heart attack at his home in North Hollywood on December 17, 1978. Ellis studied composition at Boston University (BMus 1956) and spent a year as a graduate student at UCLA, where he later taught. Ellis played with a variety of prestigious big bands and jazz groups, including those of Charlie Barnet, Sam Donahue, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Ralph Marterie, Ray McKinley, Stan Kenton, George Russell, and Claude Thornhill. He also led big bands, jazz orchestras, trios, quartets, and other small combos of his own. He performed with the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, DC, under the direction of Gunther Schuller, the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of Zubin Mehta.

Ellis is perhaps best known for his unusual and complex meters, amplified trumpet, electronic distortion, and quarter-tone melodic structures. He often used 9/4, 5/8, 7/8, 9/8, and 19/4 time signatures. He played a quarter-tone trumpet with four valves, which gave subtlety and microtonal effects to his music. In later years, he played a "superbone," a combination valve and slide trombone. Ellis received Grammy nominations for Live at Monterey (1967), Electric Bath (1968), The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground (1969), Don Ellis at Fillmore (1970), and "Theme from The French Connection" (1972). "Theme from The French Connection" won the Grammy for "Best Instrumental Arrangement" in 1972.

A number of Don Ellis charts are commercially available through the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Press, including Anti-ergophobia, The Blues, Bulgarian Bulge, Concerto For Trumpet, The Final Analysis, Go Back Home, Good Feelin’, The Great Divide, House In The Country, Indian Lady, K.C. Blues, The Magic Bus Ate My Doughnut, Over the Rainbow, Pussywiggle Stomp, Rock Odyssey, Thetis, Turkish Bath, Strawberry Soup, Loss, and Star Children. If you are looking for a score and parts for performance, we strongly encourage you to order from UNC Jazz Press. The costs will be much lower, and the parts much more legible, than would be copies from the manuscript originals. This also helps us to reduce wear and tear on the originals so that they will remain available for future generations.

View a complete listing of Don Ellis charts available through UNC Jazz press

Please note that requests for copies from UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive collections are subject to cost-recovery charges established by the UCLA Library. Payment in full is required before orders can be picked up or sent to you. A 50% non-refundable deposit is required for orders estimated at $50 or more. It is the responsibility of the person making the copying request to secure in writing all necessary permissions for copying, performance, etc. of the materials from their respective copyright owners.

UCLA Library Special Collections: Requesting Copies and Service Fees

If you request copies from the manuscripts and there are multiple versions or arrangements, you will be required to do the research to determine exactly which pages you need. This usually means that you will have to travel to the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive, or hire someone to do the research for you.

The Don Ellis Collection is stored off-site. If you are planning a visit to the Archive in order to view any part of the collection, you must make an appointment at least two weeks in advance.

Archive holdings: 224 boxes
Includes 944 folders of musical scores, 300 reel tapes, 36 sound discs, photographs, papers, newspaper clippings and realia from jazz musician Don Ellis (b. July 25, 1934; d. December 17, 1978).


Selected Don Ellis Collection Finding Aids: