Herb Ellis

Mitchell Herbert Ellis ( * August 4, 1921 in Farmersville, Texas, † March 28, 2010 in Los Angeles ) was an American jazz guitarist.

Life and work

Ellis played harmonica and banjo as a child and had as a teenager - inspired by the same- George Barnes - buy an electric guitar; early example was Charlie Christian. He later recalled:

He studied from 1941 to 1943 at North Texas State University, coinciding with Jimmy Giuffre, Gene Roland and Harry Babasin. In 1943 he became a member of Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra and then came to Jimmy Dorsey Big Band. In 1947 he founded with Lou Carter and Johnny Frigo, the trio The Soft Winds, which existed until 1953; known piece of the formation was " Detour Ahead ". After that he belonged until 1958 to the Oscar Peterson Trio, where he replaced Barney Kessel. Ellis then worked for four years with Ella Fitzgerald and performed with her ​​on the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. Already in 1957/58 was " the classic Herb Ellis Album Nothin 'But the Blues" at Verve with famous musicians such as Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Brown.

In the 1960s he was mainly active as a studio musician in Los Angeles and entered the television shows of Steve Allen, Regis Philbin, Joey Bishop and Merv Griffin on. In the 1970s he was a member of the Great Guitars ( with Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd ) and worked with Joe Pass. In addition, a number of albums under his own name was created for Concord Jazz. In the 1990s, he stepped back on with Oscar Peterson. He had one of his last performances in 1995, including with Chuck Israels. He died from the effects of Alzheimer's disease.

Throughout his career, he worked with the likes of Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Della Reese, Steve Allen, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye.


In his obituary Oliver High Keppel pays tribute to the guitarist: "(...) in his game pooled what they had to offer the guitar in jazz: The highly virtuosic single- note runs, which made ​​her the equal melodic instrument, the ability to change in the atmospheric, from the melancholy of the blues to be up to the fire of the hard bop, but also the force, the rhythmic foundation of the swing a band. "


  • Ellis In Wonderland, 1956
  • Nothing But the Blues ( Verve, 1957) with Eldridge, Hawkins, Peterson, Ray Brown, Stan Levey, Gus Johnson
  • Herb Ellis Meets Jimmy Giuffre (1959 )
  • Jazz / Concord ( Concord, 1972) with Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Jake Hanna
  • Soft Shoe ( Concord, 1974) with Harry Sweets Edison, George Duke
  • Hot Tracks ( Concord, 1975) with Sweets Edison, Plas Johnson, Monty Budwig, Jake Hanna
  • Doggin ' Around ( Concord, 1988) Duo with Red Mitchell
  • Roll Call ( Justice, 1991) with Melvin Rhyne, Jay Thomas
  • An Evening with Herb Ellis ( Jazz Focus, 1995) with Chuck Israels
  • Herb Ellis meets T.C. Pillar ( Tonewheel Records Austria, 1994) with TC Pfeiler