Don Ellis, Electric Heart – The Man, his Times & his Music

A documentary by John Vizzusi

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Cast Program notes More info


Don Ellis — Trumpeter
Don Ellis Orchestra — Orchestra
Don Ellis Band — Orchestra
Gunther Schuller — Speaker
Maynard Ferguson — Speaker
Jay Graydon — Speaker
Milcho Leviev — Speaker

Program notes

When the great Don Ellis was born in 1934, a newspaper horoscope read: "a child born on this day should have many talents, ambitions and business acumen, but many have a restless, nervous and unsettled temperament." This is the quote that fills the screen at the end of Electric Heart, the documentary charting the life and works of the great Don Ellis, one of the 20th Century's most innovative musicians. Ellis was an explorer from the start, much loved for his most popular compositions but strangely underrepresented for a huge catalog of important recordings, something this film seeks to redress. 

Expertly directed and produced by John Vizzusi, this documentary attempts to capture the essence of the man who did jazz fusion before it was a thing, mixing in classical, rock and global sounds and experimenting with electronics before the likes of Chick Corea and Miles Davis did. Quite the claim and accolade, one fleshed out via an impressive assortment of archive footage and eminent speakers including Maynard Ferguson, the trumpeter whose sound expressed the same ecstasy as Ellis', though perhaps without the avant-garde edge. 



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Directed by:
John Vizzusi
Production date: 2014
Duration: 1 h 11 min
Production: © Arthaus
Available subtitle(s): De
Resolution: SD