Don Ellis Orchestra
Released in late 1967, Electric Bath shows Ellis already using the odd-metered rhythms and exotic instrumentation that will be trademarks of his big band for the rest of his career. Likewise, the album also shows him leaning a bit towards rock, although I think to a lot of young people parts of this album could sound like late show type jazz, or even Vegas styled big band lounge music. Although not as 'proggy' or rockin as some of Ellis' later work, he definitely was breaking the pre-existing big band mold with this recording by using electronic keyboards, percussion from around the world, and some influences from modern concert hall music as well.
Side one is the more aggressive side with Ellis and crew rocking out a bit old school style, with loud brassy punches and choruses, and a driving group of drummers and percussionists. This Side closes with the song Electric Bath,, something that might appeal to fans of Zappa's late 60s - early 70s big band music with it's snaky atonal melody and middle odd-metered groove section. Ellis' influence on Zappa's music is obvious during this time period.
On side two things get a bit more interesting when the big band fades to more of a background orchestra as percussion and echoed electric pianos provide atmosphere. Open Beauty starts like a modern acid jazz tune with spacey Fender Rhodes sounds before Ellis' mini-orchestra slowly fills in the background.
This side is the more 'exotic' side also with drums often replaced by congas, tablas and other percussion instruments, it also contains Ellis' infamous trumpet solo through an echoplex, one of the first jazz solos ever recorded this way. Loved by the California youth that Don was starting to appeal to, but hated by the jazz critics, this solo brought Ellis a lot of attention, but not all of it good.
The album closer, New Horizons, opens with neo-classical melodies before a beatnik bongo beat drives a trio of flutes in an intertwining cool jazz improv; five finger snaps! Later, mellow Debussy horn harmonies are topped with another Ellis horn solo while Mike Lang's electric piano echoes in the background.
Finally more hard groovin odd-metered horn driven jazz takes us to some modern orchestrated diversions and the final big horn showdown.
While fans of Soft Machine III thru V, and early Frank Zappa might find some music to like here, I think a lot of rockers would be turned off by some of the old school big band jazz sounds.
Don Ellis Orchestra - Electric Bath (1967)
1. Indian Lady 8:07
2. Alone 5:32
3. Turkish Bath 10:29
4. Open Beauty 8:27
5. New Horizons 12:21
6. Turkish Bath (Single) 2:52
7. Indian Lady (Single) 2:58
- Don Ellis / trumpet
- Ruben Leon / alto sax, soprano sax, flute
- Joe Roccisano / alto sax, soprano sax, flute
- Ira Shulman / tenor sax, piccolo, flute, clarinet
- Ron Starr / tenor sax, flute, clarinet
- John Magruder / baritone sax, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet
- Steve Bohannon / drums
- Frank DeLaRosa / bass
- Alan Estes / percussion, timbales, vibraphone
- Bob Harmon / trumpet
- Michael Lang / piano, keyboards, clavinet
- Ron Myers / trombone
- Tom Myers / trombone
- Ray Neapolitan / bass, sitar
- Dave Parlato / bass
- Mark Stevens / percussion, timbales, vibraphone
- Glenn Stuart / trumpet
- Chino Valdes / bongos, conga
- Edward Warren / trumpet
- Alan Weight / trumpet
- Alan Wight / trumpet
- Terry Woodson / trombone
- Mike Lang / piano, clavinet
- David Sanchez / trombone