1. I’m trying a new format out with these posts. Five big points. Maybe formatted like a review, maybe more like a diary. We’ll see. I figure it’ll take me 40–50 of these posts before I’ve really found a voice. Anyhow, thanks to Will Leitch for the format.
2. The backstory on this album is neat. In 1956, Ellington’s career was waning as the world moved away from big brass swing & jazz toward more rock ‘n roll type sounds. His Orchestra’s performance at Newport Jazz in 1956 reinvigorated his career through a combination of word of mouth and radio plays.
3. It did so thanks in large part to his tenor sax, Paul Gonsalves. Gonsalves dropped a 27-chorus sax solo in the middle of “Diminuendo & Crescendo In Blue,” which sent the crowd into a state of bedlam, jumping into the aisles, standing on chairs, rushing the stage, unable to refrain from bursting into dance. 27 choruses! It’s a nonstop 6-minute solo, splitting the Diminuendo and Crescendo in the song. It’s breathtaking, and as you listen, you can hear the crowd noise growing, the occasional yelp, and finally rapturous applause.
It became such A Thing that papers even pinpointed the woman who got the party started by jumping from her box seat to start dancing — Elaine Anderson:
It’s a true masterpiece, captured brilliantly here.
4. But Duke wasn’t happy with the recording, and so much of the original version of this album was actually recorded later in a studio. It wasn’t until 1999 that a full recreation of the live performance became available. Thank god it did.
5. “Diminuendo” isn’t the only song on this album, of course. It features a rousing “Take The A Train,” and it’s hard to believe Willie Cook’s “Tea For Two” is based on the same song as the original in No, No, Nanette. I have painful memories of performing that song in our high school production. No offense to our theatre department’s orchestra — Duke’s was better.
One Essential Song:
Listen on Spotify: