Sunday Jazz: Duke Ellington at the Newport Jazz Festival, 1956

Duke Ellington at the Newport Jazz Festival, 1956

This weekend sees the continuation of one of the greatest musical celebrations around — the Newport Jazz Festival. It was founded by George Wein in 1954 and in its half-century-plus history has showcased some of the greatest talent in jazz, as well as other genres. But in just its third year, 1956, the Newport Jazz Festival was the setting for a truly legendary performance. For it was that year that Duke Ellington and his band took the stage and delivered a show for the ages.

I’ll let this clip from Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary miniseries tell the story…

The band’s performance of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” — punctuated by tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves’ famous solo — became the defining moment of Ellington’s late career, and led to a creative and commercial resurgence. Columbia Records capitalized on the magic created at Newport by issuing Ellington at Newport, a live document of that show.

Later it was discovered that more than half of the original LP was actually performed in the studio, including Gonsalves’ solo, but this was rectified on a later CD re-issue. It is highly recommended listening.

(If you have Spotify, you can listen to this and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by clicking on my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.)

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