Don Elliott

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Don Elliott
Birth nameDon Helfman[1]
Born(1926-10-21)October 21, 1926
Somerville, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedJuly 5, 1984(1984-07-05) (aged 57)
Weston, Connecticut
InstrumentsTrumpet, vibraphone, mellophone

Don Elliott Helfman (October 21, 1926 – July 5, 1984) was an American jazz trumpeter, vibraphonist, vocalist, and mellophone player.[2] His album Calypso Jazz is considered by some jazz enthusiasts to be one of the definitive calypso jazz albums. Elliott recorded over 60 albums and 5,000 advertising jingles throughout his career.


Elliott played mellophone in his high school band and played trumpet for an army band. After study at the University of Miami he added vibraphone to the list. He recorded with Terry Gibbs and Buddy Rich before forming his own band. From 1953 to 1960 he won the Down Beat Readers' Poll several times for "miscellaneous instrument-mellophone."[3][4]

Known as the "Human Instrument", Elliott performed jazz as a vocalist, trombonist, flugelhornist, and percussionist. He pioneered the art of multitrack recording, composed prize-winning advertising jingles, prepared film scores, and built a thriving production company. He scored several Broadway productions, including James Thurber's The Beast in Me and A Thurber Carnival, as well as Frank D. Gilroy's The Only Game in Town.[5] He also provided one of the voices for the novelty jazz duo the Nutty Squirrels.

Elliott was also a longtime associate of Quincy Jones, contributing vocals to Jones's scores for the films The Pawnbroker (1962), Walk, Don't Run (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), $ (1971), The Hot Rock (1972) and The Getaway (1972).[6] Elliot also composed the score to The Happy Hooker starring Lynn Redgrave.

Elliott owned and operated one of the first multitrack recording studios in New York City and in Weston, Connecticut, where he died of cancer in 1984.


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ Pirtle, Scooter (1994). "Don Elliott: He Was a Gentlemen, too". Middle Horn Leader. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Don Elliott, 57, Jazz Singer, Vibraphonist and Composer". The New York Times. 6 July 1984. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  3. ^ Wynn, Ron. "Don Elliott". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2007-02-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)Down Beat Readers Polls Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Don Elliott". IBDb. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
  6. ^ Leonard Feather; Ira Gitler (1 April 2007). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press. p. 450. ISBN 978-0-19-988640-1.
  7. ^ "Don Elliott | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 August 2017.