Selection: How Time Passes (Ellis)
Don Ellis (trumpet) Ron Carter (bass) Charlie Persip (drums)Jaki Byard (piano) Engineer: Bob d’Orleans, recorded at Nola Penthouse Sound Studios, New York, October 4 and 5, 1960
Labelled as “Third Stream Jazz”, How Time Passes is Ellis’s debut recording as leader, with a pedigree rhythm section including former room-mate Byard, stretching the boundaries of bop-based jazz and experimenting with time and tempo through accelerandos and ritardandos. Brubeck wasn’t the only one experimenting with unorthodox approaches to meter.
Seeking to establishing himself as an unorthodox modernist, according to a biographer of Ellis:
“While touring Scandinavia in 1963, Ellis’s performances in Stockholm included short theatre pieces called jazz “happenings.” These performances mixed conventional jazz performances with theatrics such as inflating/bursting paper bags, crawling under, pouring salt on, and banging on the lid of the piano, as well as using paint brushes on the piano strings, and playing cards on the stage. In one “happening” titled “The Death,” Ellis instructed the ensemble to just stand next to an out-of-tune piano for six minutes”.
How very Sixties, beard-stroking avant-garde “jazz happenings”. I expect Stockholm’s hip Swedes probably loved that – Sven says: ho ho ho, mycket tredje ström, ho ho ho.
According to Down Beat magazine in 1961, Ellis was “an ultra-modernist who could develop into the most important brass soloist since Miles Davis” He was awarded Downbeat voted International Jazz Critics award for best New Star. A later work, Electric Bath (1967) was nominated for a Grammy award and also earned an “Album of the Year” award from Down Beat magazine. Seems Downbeat were pretty upbeat about Don Ellis.
Vinyl: Barnaby Candid Jazz: BR 5020 reissue of Candid CJM 9004 (1978) 121gm.
That label! Salvador Dali meets Vincent Van Gogh for a surreal picnic.
I normally frown on reissues but Candid titles from 1961 are not something you see every day, and my earlier encounter with Barnaby Records marked them out as a little different, “vintage US reissues” with very acceptable sound quality, and a tad more lively than the widely-available Phonoco 1985 reissues, which I don’t rate. Ebay served this Barnaby up, no problem, and priced in single figures, so no complaints, other than embarrassment – a record label named after “popular” singer Andy Willliam’s dog, Mr Barnaby.
Now there’s a dog on a piano, very Third Stream, woof woof.