Don Elliott was born October 21, 1926 in Somerville, New Jersey and 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 and recorded with Terry Gibbs and Buddy Rich before forming his own band.
From 1953 to 1960 he won the DownBeat readers poll several times for miscellaneous instrument-mellophone. Known as the “Human Instrument”, Don 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 including James Thurber’s The Beast in Me and A Thurber Carnival, in the latter of which he performed with his quartet. He also provided one of the voices for the novelty jazz duo the Nutty Squirrels. He lent his vocal talents to such motion picture soundtracks as The Getaway starring Steve McQueen, $ (Dollars) starring Warren Beatty, and The Hot Rock starring Robert Redford, as well as composing 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 and recorded over 60 albums and 5,000 advertising jingles throughout his career. A longtime associate of Quincy Jones, he contributed vocal work to many of Jones’ film scores. As sideman he performed and recorded with Phil Bodner, Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Jackie McLean, Paul Desmond, Billy Taylor, Billy Eckstine, Bill Evans, Urbie Green, Michel Legrand, George Shearing, Marty Bell, Bob Corwin, Louis Bellson and Mundell Lowe among others.
Trumpeter, vibraphonist, vocalist, and mellophone player Don Elliott, whose recording Calypso Jazz is considered by some jazz enthusiasts to be one of the definitive calypso jazz albums, passed away of cancer on July 5, 1984 in Weston, Connecticut.