Highlights from the Ethnomusicology Archive: the Don Ellis collection

Don Ellis (1934-1978) was a jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader.  Ellis won a Grammy in 1972 for Best Instrumental Arrangement for the Theme From The French Connection.  He is probably best known for his extensive musical experimentation.  Ellis’ rhythmic innovations came as a direct result of his studies in non-Western musical cultures, which included graduate work at UCLA’s (then) Institute of Ethnomusicology.

The Ethnomusicolgy Archive holds the complete Don Ellis collection, including musical manuscripts, audio and video recordings, photos, select costumes, and both his "superbone" and quarter-tone trumpet.

Because of the Oscar™-winning movie Whiplash, there has been a fair amount of press about both the movie and the music "Whiplash."  (I have included some links, below.)  Hank Levy composed and arranged the piece for the Don Ellis Band.  It is, of course, part of the Archive's Don Ellis collection. 

Whiplash score excerpt

Hank Levy signature

Don's part, page 1

Don's part, page 2

Don's part, note

Published marching band arrangement of Whiplash

The marching band version is significantly different from the original.  They even changed the time signature!

In addition to the Ellis musical manuscripts, the collection also includes hundreds of audio and video recordings.  Seventy-seven of the recordings are currently available on the Ethnomusicology Archive channel on California Light and Sound (from the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP).

Don Ellis at Ellis Island (club) on the Sunset Strip (1967)

Don Ellis at the San Francisco Museum of Art (June 1968)


Don Ellis Band, Chapman College (May 1974)

Whiplash in the press...

Brody, Richard. 2014. "Getting Jazz Right in the Movies." The New Yorker, October 13.

Chinendec, Nate. 2014. "An All-Year Season of Discontent in Jazz." The New York Times, December 30.

Clark, Nick. 2015. "Whiplash movie hit by backlash from disgruntled jazz fans." The Independent [London], January 23.

O'Connell, Sean J. 2015. "Drummer Peter Erskine on Jazz Flick 'Whiplash.'" KCET Artbound, February 24.

Ross, Brian. 2015. "Whiplash Wins, Jazz Loses." The Huffington Post, February 23.


Photos © Ellis Music Enterprises, All Right Reserved. (For permission to use any Ellis images, contact the Archivists.)

Photos © Objective Music Co., All Right Reserved. (For permission to use any Ellis images, contact the Archivists.)

Photos © Regents of the University of California, All Right Reserved. (For permission to use any Ellis images, contact the Archivists.)

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