Don Elliott

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Don Elliott
Born Don Helfman[1]
(1926-10-21)October 21, 1926
Somerville, New Jersey,
United States
Died July 5, 1984(1984-07-05) (aged 57)
Weston, Connecticut,
United States

Don Elliott (October 21, 1926 in Somerville, New Jersey – July 5, 1984 in Weston, Connecticut) 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]

Known as the "Human Instrument", Don Elliott additionally performed jazz as a vocalist, trombonist, flugelhornist and percussionist. He pioneered the art of multitrack recording, composed countless prize-winning advertising jingles, prepared film scores, and built a thriving production company. Elliott scored several Broadway productions,[4] including James Thurber's The Beast in Me and A Thurber Carnival, in the latter of which he performed with the Don Elliott Quartet.[5][6] 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 vocal work in particular to Jones's film scores for The Pawnbroker (1962), Walk, Don't Run (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), $ (1971), The Hot Rock (1972) and The Getaway (1972).[7] Elliot also composed the score to The Happy Hooker starring Lynn Redgrave.

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


A more complete discography can be found at

As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

  • Phil Bodner & Company: Fine & Dandy (Stash)
  • Miles Davis: Quintet with Lee Konitz, Quartet with Jackie McLean (Fresh Sound Rec., 1948/1952)
  • Paul Desmond: Quinet/Quartet featuring Don Elliott (OJC, 1956-57)
  • Billy Taylor: My Fair Lady Loves Jazz (Impulse!, 1957)
  • Billy Eckstine: Basin Street East (Emercy, 1961)
  • Bill Evans and Don Elliott: Tenderly: An Informal Session (Milestone, 1956-1957 [2001])
  • Urbie Green: Newport Jazz Festival 1958 (Phontastic)
  • Michel Legrand: Legrand Jazz (Philips, 1958)
  • George Shearing: Verve Jazz Masters (Verve, 199-54)
  • Marty Bell: With The Don Elliot Quartet (Riverside)
  • Bob Corwin: Featuring Don Elliot (Riverside)

With Louis Bellson

With Mundell Lowe

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "DON ELLIOT, 57, JAZZ SINGER, VIBRAPHONIST AND COMPOSER", The New York Times, July 6, 1984. Accessed December 9, 2007.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2007-02-12. Down Beat Readers Polls Archived March 11, 2007, on Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Don Elliott". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  5. ^ "A Thurber Carnival". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  6. ^ Thurber, James (1962). A Thurber Carnival. New York: Samuel French, Inc. 
  7. ^ Leonard Feather; Ira Gitler (1 April 2007). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press. p. 450. ISBN 978-0-19-988640-1. 

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