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.
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: