Ken Orton loves to publish his Don Ellis biography: “In Search of Don Ellis, Forgotten Genius” – written in American English - completed and copyrighted in October 2007. There are well over 800 pages of text and over 200 pages contained in the “Picture Galleries”, that include many rare, unpublished shots.
Although he has tried over the past months to find a publisher or means of publishing, he was unsuccessfully. That’s why he loves to share exclusively this extensive article with the readers of the Keep Swinging blog
It is now almost 30 years since a true musical genius died of a heart attack at his home in N. Hollywood, Cal.
Don Ellis, born 25 July 1934 in Los Angeles, became an esteemed trumpet player and composer during his short lifetime through continuous study and commitment. His life was a quest into world music cultures and sound. He sought to extend the boundaries of musical sound and thinking to a limitless degree, always searching into the unknown for the unheard.
His mother – Winston Johnston Ellis – was a well-qualified pianist and organist who could have followed a career as a concert artist but chose instead to support her husband – Don’s father, E. Ezra Ellis – in his calling to the church. Ez became a Reverend Doctor of Divinity. Don’s parents were loved by all who knew them.
This was the environment in which the young Don grew up. Music became part of life and it is quite evident, from his mother’s notes, that he was very musically gifted from an early age. The sight of many gleaming trombones at a concert his father took him to fascinated Don so much that this, indeed, was the instrument he would like to have. However, events led to his parents purchasing a trumpet for him. Don became so enthralled he later wrote: “Nothing will ever stop me from playing my trumpet”.
On through school with various establishments, Don would eventually graduate at Boston University with a Mus B in Composition degree, in June 1956.
With the help of his trumpet teacher, John Coffin, Don would immediately audition and join the New Glenn Miller Orchestra, under the direction of Ray McKinley.
In December 1956, Don was drafted into the army. He served in Germany with the 7th Army Soldiers’ Show and toured with their Jazz II and Jazz III Units. The Jazz III orchestra, in particular, was extremely successful, Don’s skills in trumpet playing and music arranging contributing greatly. Featured were musicians of fame Leo Wright, Eddie Harris, Lanny Morgan, Dave Sanchez, etc within this very exciting ensemble.
Returning to the U.S.A after army service, Don would suffer some lean years in N.Y City, eventual work with a number of big bands, including Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson and the groups of Charlie Mingus, George Russell would be a boost to his future career. In particular, his attendance at the Lennox School of Jazz would promote interest in his playing.
Don would record with a number of these ensembles, as well as with his own groups. The journey into experimentation became well under way, with the formation of the “Improvisational Workshop Orchestra”, where his developing interest in odd-meter time signatures began to emerge. In fact, a number of his later recorded big band charts began within this ensemble. (to be continued)
This is the third article in row that wants to commemorate musicians, as they were born 100 years ago. On the 14th of September we had Charlie Beal - on the 15th Kid Sheik Cola and today Chick Bullock.
Chick Bullock was born in Bute Montana and passed away 27 years ago. It is said that he was one of the first pop-singers of the 1930s, He was a radio artist for some times, of course, but he became popular with the thousands of recordings he made. He became the most important singer for ARC (= The American Record Company), which released popular labels like Columbia and sung in all major orchestras and with all major jazz artists:, like Eddie Lang en Joe Venuti, Duke Ellington, Vic Berton, Dick McDonough, Ben Pollack, Adrian Rollini .... making a list means that you always forget names, so ... I'll finish it with the names of Don Redman and Fred Waring. Beinig an ARC-artist he whad an exclusive contract with ARC, but I can tell you, he sung for other labels, like Durium, too. Thanks to the depression he had to make money I guess. These recordings were for export to Europe only, so he wasn't afraid that his very recognizable voice should be heard in the States.
The record above, a Million Dollar Baby and Whistling in the Dance is such a European Durium on which Chick Bullock sings. His name is not on the label and the name Jack Norman was in fact Phil Spitalny, the US bandleader who would become known with is All-Women Orchestras during the late 1930s and 1940s.
Nederlands-Vlaams ( To the English part with Don Elis: May Time Restore? )
CHICK BULLOCK ( 1908 - 1981)
Dit is de derde honderdjarige op rij, die in dit blog langs komt. On 14 september hadden we hier Charlie Beal, gisteren, de vijftiende Kid Sheik Cola en vandaag Chick Bullock.
Chick Bullock werd geboren in Bute, Montana en overleed 27 jaar geleden. Hij was één van de grootste popartiesten uit de jaren dertig. Hij zong voor de radio, natuurlijk, maar werd vooral bekend door zijn duizenden platen, die hij vol zong. Hij had een contract bij ARC, ( = American Record Company), die o.a. het label Columbia uitbracht. Hij zong met alle grote artiesten uit die tijd: Eddie Lang en Joe Venuti, Duke Ellington, Vic Berton, Dick McDonough, Ben Pollack, Adrian Rollini .... en als je begint een lijstje te maken, vergeet je een heleboel namen. howel hij een exclusief contract had met ARC nam hij ook wel eens een schnabbel aan. Omdat de depressie zeker ook de platenindustrie trof, moest er brood op de plank komen. Zo kan ik vertellen dat hij ook voor Durium opnamen heeft gemaakt; opnamen die nooit in Amerika verschenen, maar alleen voor export naar Europa waren. Zijn sonore, zachte stem zou in de VS snel herkent zijn. De hieerboven afgebeelde Duriumplaat is zo'n kartonnen hit: Million Dollar Baby en Whistling in the Dark, waarop Chick Bullock zingt. Het orkest van Jack Norman was in feite Phil Spitalny, die eind jaren dertig en begin jaren veertig bekend zou worden door zijn All-Women Bands, orkesten met louter vrouwen.
Zal de tijd de herinnering aan Don Ellis rechtzetten?.
Lees het morgen in: Don Ellis: De Tijd Zal Het Leren