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To the 1st Don Ellis Alumni Gig in 2005


Don Ellis Alumni Band - 2nd Reunion Gig

The Don Ellis Alumni Band directed by Milcho Leviev - ADVENTURES IN TIME - was part of the four day jazz festival - SWING INTO SPRING - by the LA Jazz Institute at Four Points by Sheraton at LAX May 24-27, 2007.

In the Alumni Band: Jay Graydon, Milcho Leviev, Jock Ellis, Fred Selden, Sam Falzone, Ann Patterson, Ralph Humphrey, Nick DiScala.


Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig


Text from the announcing poster:


"It Happens Every Spring
The Los Angeles Jazz Institute is pleased to present Swing Into Spring, a Cavalcade of Big Band Jazz. The west coast is blessed with an amazing array of world-class big bands show casing many of the outstanding composers, arrangers and jazz soloists in the world. This year’s annual festival features 24 big bands over a five day period in what promises to be an unprecedented display of the art of Big Band Jazz. The name "Swing into Spring" inspired us to design this year's brochure with a baseball motif which besides creating a fun sub-theme actually makes a lot of sense. Both Jazz and Baseball are American inventions and represent two of the most significant landmarks in American History.

During the swing era many of the name bands had their own baseball teams made up of the leader and sidemen. They played each other informally and often the results were reported in Downbeat and included full box scores. We've pulled several jazz related baseball images from the L.A. Jazz Institute archives and have included them for your enjoyment."

All the data for the 4 albums described on this page is derived from DonEllisMusic.com
During and briefly after his college days Jay Graydon played in the renowned Don Ellis Band for a period of time. The Don Ellis music style can be described as experimental post-bop jazz. Jay was the guitar player on 4 of the Don Ellis albums released during this period ...

Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig
Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig

Don Ellis (July 25, 1934 - December 17, 1978) was an American jazz trumpeter, drummer, composer and leader of big bands who consistently explored the area of unusual time signatures. He was the first to create a fusion between jazz-rock and classical music. Don Ellis became known with his odd metered arrangements during his college years at the University of Boston. He played 4-valve horns that were capable of playing quarter tones. He experimented with Echoplex tape delay, octave followers and ring modulators for psychedelic effects, to be heard on e.g. the DON ELLIS AT FILLMORE album.


Don Ellis - The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground


  • House in the Country (Kooper / arr. Ellis)
  • Don't Leave Me (Nilsson / arr. Ellis)
  • Higher (S. Stewart / arr. Ellis)
  • Bulgarian Bulge (public domain / arr. Ellis)
  • Eli's Comin' (Nyro / arr. Ellis)
  • Acoustical Lass (Ellis)
  • Goood Feelin' (Ellis)
  • Send My Baby Back (Marbray, Hewitt / arr. Ellis)
  • Love for Rent (Selden)
  • It's Your Thing (Isley, Isley, Isley / arr. Ellis)
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Black Baby (Allen, Ellis)


Date(s) Recorded - January 1969
Releases - Columbia (1969), Wounded Bird Records (2006)


  • Don Ellis - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Patti Allen - Vocals
  • The Blossoms - Vocals
  • John Klemmer - Tenor Sax, Flute
  • Hadley Caliman - Flute, Tenor Sax
  • Mike Altschul - Clarinet, Flute, Baritone Sax
  • Fred Seldon - Clarinet, Flute, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax
  • Lonnie Shetter - Clarinet, Flute, Oboe, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax
  • Sam Falzone - Clarinet, Flute, Tenor Sax
  • Doug Bixby - Tuba
  • Stuart Blumberg - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • John Rosenberg - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Glenn Stuart - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Jack Coan - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Jack Ellis - Trombone
  • Glen Ferris - Trombone
  • Jay Graydon - Guitar
  • Dana Hughes - Bass Trombone
  • Ralph Humphrey - Percussion, Drums, Vibraphone
  • Jo Julian - Bass
  • Carol Kaye - Bass
  • Lee Pastora - Percussion, Bongos, Conga
  • Rick Quintinal - Percussion, Drums, Vibraphone
  • Peter Robinson ? Piano, Electric Piano


Liner Notes

A transcription of the first measure of "Bulgarian Bulge" appears under a hand-written heading labeled "Liner Notes:" ? no text is provided.

Although Ellis had flirted with rock elements in his previous big band releases, The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground (1969) announced a full embrace of a more popular style. The album features vocalist Patti Allen and the vocal group The Blossoms on various selections, including Ellis's arrangement of "It's Your Thing" by The Isley Brothers.

Rock elements manifest themselves through the pop-oriented arrangements, typically featuring a rock-style beat in 4/4 and radio-friendly lengths of 3-4 minutes. The only selection on the release featuring exotic rhythms is "Bulgarian Bulge," Ellis's arrangement of a Bulgarian folk song in an extremely fast 33/8. Ellis also expands the use of quarter-tone trumpet to his entire trumpet section on "Ferris Wheel" and "It's Your Thing."

The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground is strikingly inconsistent with the adjacent Ellis Orchestra releases. However, the recording foreshadows Ellis's commercialized approach to selections appearing on several of his later recordings. The apparent contradiction suggests the influence of sales-driven executives within Columbia Records.

After the release of The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground, Ellis continued to implement some degree of an electronic/rock approach into his performances and recordings. Ellis even suggests in one of his books that stylistically, rock-style drumming ? rather than jazz drumming ? was more appropriate to prominently displaying his complex rhythms through the emphasis and the clarity of the diaphragms over the textural wash of the ride cymbals:

"[ . . . ] in bebop the sound went to the cymbals, in rock music (although the cymbals are still used) the opposite has happened, and the basic patterns have gone back to the drums [ . . . ] cymbals give no definition of time and merely add a blanket to the overall sound. So the burden of time-keeping has now come back to the snare and bass drums. This also gives it a more solid rhythmic feel. For anyone who likes to swing hard, I think this is a definite step in the right direction."

By 1970, Ellis's crossover into the rock domain earned his ensemble appearances with the popular rock bands "United States Of America" and Frank Zappa's "The Mothers Of Inventions." This rock approach extended beyond the music of Ellis's act and into the visual element of their live performances including their wardrobe. According to one witness, "The band is outfitted by a local hip clothing store and they all wear velvet-satin puff-sleeve affairs with white turtlenecks beneath. To see them alone is an experience."

Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig Don Ellis at Fillmore - recorded live in 1970 - features several of Ellis's most famous compositions including "Pussy Wiggle Stomp", "The Great Divide," and "Final Analysis". The double-LP release garnered a Grammy nomination and includes an off-the-wall psychedelic arrangement of Lennon and McCartney's "Hey Jude." The performance of another song borrowed from the pop domain - along with the inclusion of Hank Levy's composition titled "Rock Odyssey" - confirms Ellis's lingering connection to rock influences.


Don Ellis - Don Ellis at Fillmore

    Date(s) Recorded June 18-21, 1970
  • Tracks Final Analysis (Ellis) - 14:00
  • Excursion II (Klemmer) - 5:44
  • The Magic Bus Ate My Doughnut (Selden) - 2:29
  • The Blues (Ellis) - 7:25
  • Salvatore Sam (Ellis) - 5:06
  • Rock Odyssey (Levy) - 9:48
  • Hey Jude (Lennon/McCartney) - 10:38
  • Antea (Levy) - 5:59
  • Old Man's Tear (Klemmer) - 4:53
  • Great Divide (Ellis) - 8:42
  • Pussy Wiggle Stomp (Ellis) - 11:54


Recorded live Bill Graham's Fillmore West in San Francisco, CA.
Releases Columbia CG 30243 (1970)


  • Don Ellis - Trumpet, Drums
  • John Klemmer - Saxophone, Winds
  • Tom Garvin - Piano
  • John Clark - Saxophone, Winds
  • Doug Bixby - Bass, Tuba
  • Stuart Blumberg - Trumpet
  • Ernie Carlson - Trombone
  • Jack Coan - Trumpet
  • Ronnie Dunn - Percussion, Drums
  • Sam Faizone - Saxophone, Winds
  • Glen Ferris - Trombone
  • Jay Graydon - Guitar
  • Ralph Humphrey - Drums
  • Dennis Parker - Bass
  • Lee Pastora - Conga
  • John Rosenberg - Trumpet
  • Fred Seldon - Saxophone, Wind
  • Lonnie Shetter - Saxophone, Wind
  • Glenn Stuart - Trumpet
  • Don Switzer - Bass Trombone
  • Don Quigley – Tuba


Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig Ellis was approached by film director William Friedkin to compose the music to his film The French Connection (with movie stars like Gene Hackman, Tony Lo Bianco and Roy Scheider). Ellis accepted the project and wrote the music to be performed by his own orchestra. In 1972 the Don Ellis won a Grammy Award for "The French Connection". Best Instrumental Arrangement for the Academy Award Winning Motion Picture


Jay Graydon plays on the French Connection 1 theme in 1971.

Ellis' final album for Columbia, Connection was recorded in August 1972. Among other tunes the album featured "The Theme from "The French Connection", an abbreviated version of Ellis' movie score, and "Chain Reaction", a tour de force by longtime contributor Hank Levy. Alongside these highlights are arrangements of several pop songs by artists like Carole King, Yes, Andrew Lloyd Weber and The Carpenters. The arrangements were generally in different meters than the original, or arranged for the melody to be played in a humorous way. There are no vocal tracks on this album.


Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig


Don Ellis - Connection

  • Put It Where You Want It (Sample / arr. Falzone)
  • Alone Again (Naturally) (O'Sullivan / arr. Leviev)
  • Superstar (Webber-Rice/ arr. Leviev)
  • I Feel the Earth Move (King / arr. Halligan)
  • Theme from The French Connection (Ellis)
  • Conquistador (Reid-Brooker / arr. Levy)
  • Roundabout (Anderson-Howe / arr. Selden)
  • Chain Reaction (Levy)
  • Goodbye to Love (Carpenter-Bettis / arr. Selden)
  • Lean on Me (Withers / arr. Corry)
  • Train to Get There (Halligan)
  • Date(s) Recorded - 1972
    Releases Columbia KC 31766 (1972)

  • Don Ellis - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Fred Selden - Alto Sax, Flute, Soprano Sax, Piccolo, Alto Flute
  • Vince Denham - Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Piccolo
  • Sam Falzone - Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Flute
  • Gary Herbig - Baritone Sax, Soprano Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Oboe
  • Glenn Stuart - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Bruce MacKay - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Paul Bogosian - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Gil Rathel - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Sidney Muldrow - French Horn
  • Glenn Ferris - Trombone
  • Ken Sawhill - Bass Trombone
  • Doug Bixby - Tuba
  • Joel Quivey - Violin
  • Earle Corry - Violin
  • Renita Koven - Viola
  • Pat Kudzia - Cello
  • Jay Graydon - Guitar
  • Milcho Leviev - Piano, Fender Rhodes, Organ, Clavinet
  • Dave McDaniel - Bass
  • Ralph Humphrey - Drums
  • Ron Dunn - Drums, Percussion
  • Lee Pastora - Conga
  • Liner Notes - Leonard Feather


Liner notes includes excerpt from Leonard Feather's book From Satchmo to Miles.

Connection (1972) features several arrangements of popular rock songs forced into meters different than the original ? none of which were arranged by Ellis. Based on Ellis's success of his film score to the movie The French Connection, the popular "Theme from the French Connection" was included on this release. Also included on the release was Hank Levy's "Chain Reaction," a piece Levy considered to be his finest effort for the Ellis ensemble. The scope and sophistication of Levy's composition makes it stand apart from the rest of the pop-influenced selections on the recording.

Connection was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1972.

Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig

Don Ellis - Soaring

  • Whiplash (Levy) - 4:25
  • Sladka Pitka (Leviev) - 6:40
  • Devil Made Me Write This Piece (Ellis) - 6:00
  • Go Back Home (Falzone) - 3:15
  • Invincible (Ellis) - 6:43
  • Image of Maria (Ellis) - 3:03
  • Sidonie (Fried) - 6:37
  • Nicole (Ellis) - 5:29

    Date(s) Recorded 1973
    Releases PAUSA PR-7028 (1973), BASF MPS 25123 (1974)
  • Don Ellis - Trumpet, Drums, Flugelhorn
  • Milcho Leviev - Organ, Piano, Keyboards, Clavinet
  • Bruce Mackay - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Doug Bixby - Tuba
  • Vince Denham - Flute, Piccolo, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax
  • Jay Graydon - Guitar
  • Gary Herbig - Clarinet, Flute, Oboe, Baritone Sax, Soprano Sax
  • Ralph Humphrey - Drums
  • Mike Jamieson - Trombone
  • Sidney Muldrow - French Horn
  • Lee Pastora - Conga
  • Gil Rathel - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Fred Selden - Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax
  • Dave McDaniel - Bass
  • Renita Koven - Viola
  • Jack Caudill - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Earle Correy - Violin
  • Ron Dunn - Percussion, Drums
  • Sam Falzone - Clarinet, Flute, Tenor Sax
  • Pat Kudzia - Cello
  • Joel Quivey - Violin
  • Ken Sawhill - Bass Trombone


Different packaging (back cover only) for PAUSA and BASF releases.

Soaring (1973) temporarily disengages the commercial approach found in Connection and continues the musical direction set by Tears of Joy. Soaring contains the last recorded examples of Ellis's use of the echoplex, and also capture Ellis's performance on drums. Ellis composed four of the eight original selections.

Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig Jay at 2nd Don Ellis gig

Review quotes on "Don Ellis at Fillmore" at Amazon.com:

"If you are a fan of Ellis' work, you need it. If you are into contemporary big bands and haven't heard the Don Ellis Band, this is a good place to start. Some typically crazy Sixties stuff melded with Don's odd meter tunes makes for an interesting, yet accessible mix."

"I remember, vividly, blasting the paint off the walls, listening to this fabulous and experimental album through my oversized Polk Audio speakers. And, just as fondly I recall the quizical look it would produce on my mothers face as she tried to understand the sounds of the odd meter, the quarter tone trumpet, the ring modulator and the speaker in the guitar players mouth.
This is simply the gretest jazz album I ever owned, and maybe the best one ever produced. Ellis and his exquisite band romp through the music with a presence, exuberance and accuracy that still amazes.
The album altered big bands forever. Even now,the music is edgy, full of life and inspiring. Thank you Don Ellis."
Jay at 2nd Don Ellis 
Jay Graydon and Jock Ellis (trombone player and no relation) share fond and fun memories backstage!


Filmmaker John Vizzusi's documentary movie on Don Ellis titled "Electric Heart" had its West Coast premier at this four day jazz festival and here below is a clip from the film - "ELECTRIC HEART- the Man, his Times & his Music". In the film there are many testimonials from musicians, who worked with Don Ellis. Jay Graydon is also interviewed in this movie.


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