Original 1956 LP: Ellington at Newport
“Festival Junction” – 10:08
“Blues to Be There” – 8:04
“Newport Up” – 5:33
“Jeep’s Blues” – 5:12
“Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” – 14:56
Remastered 1999 CD: Ellington at Newport (Complete)
“The Star Spangled Banner” – 1:10
Father Norman O’Connor Introduces Duke & the Orchestra / Duke Introduces Tune & Anderson, Jackson & Procope – 3:36
“Black and Tan Fantasy” – 6:21
Duke Introduces Cook & Tune – 0:26
“Tea for Two” – 3:34
Duke & Band Leave Stage / Father Norman Talks About The Festival – 2:30
“Take the ‘A’ Train” – 4:27
Duke Announces Strayhorn’s A Train & Nance / Duke Introduces Festival Suite, Part I & Hamilton – 0:41
“Part I – Festival Junction” – 8:10
Duke Announces Soloists; Introduces Part II – 0:38
“Part II – Blues to Be There” – 7:09
Duke Announces Nance & Procope; Introduces Part III – 0:19
“Part III – Newport Up” – 5:33
Duke Announces Hamilton, Gonsalves & Terry / Duke Introduces Carney & Tune – 0:25
“Sophisticated Lady” – 3:52
Duke Announces Grissom & Tune – 0:17
“Day In, Day Out” – 3:50
Duke Introduces Tune(s) and Paul Gonsalves Interludes – 0:23
“Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue” – 14:20
Announcements, Pandemonium – 0:44
Pause Track – 0:06
Duke Introduces Johnny Hodges – 0:18
“I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” – 3:38
“Jeep’s Blues” – 4:36
Duke Calms Crowd; Introduces Nance & Tune – 0:42
“Tulip or Turnip” – 2:49
Riot Prevention – 1:08
“Skin Deep” – 9:13
“Mood Indigo” – 1:30
Studio Concert (Excerpts) – 4:01
Father Norman O’Connor Introduces Duke Ellington / Duke Introduces New Work, Part I & Hamilton – 1:02
“Part I – Festival Junction” – 8:46
Duke Announces Soloists; Introduces Part II – 0:32
“Part II – Blues To Be There” – 7:48
Duke Announces Nance & Procope; Introduces Part III” – 0:16
“Part III – Newport Up” – 5:20
Duke Announces Hamilton, Gonsalves & Terry / Pause / Duke Introduces Johnny Hodges – 0:41
“I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” – 3:47
“Jeep’s Blues” – 4:31
Pause Track – 0:06
Tracks 9-19 on CD2 were not part of the original performance.
Duke Ellington – piano
Cat Anderson – trumpet
Willie Cook – trumpet
Ray Nance – trumpet, vocals
Clark Terry – trumpet
Quentin Jackson – trombone
Lawrence Brown – trombone
John Sanders – trombone
Britt Woodman – trombone
Johnny Hodges – alto saxophone
Russell Procope – alto saxophone, clarinet
Paul Gonsalves – tenor saxophone
Harry Carney – baritone saxophone
Jimmy Hamilton – clarinet
Jimmy Woode – double bass
Al Lucas – bass
Jimmy Grissom – vocals
Sam Woodyard – drums
There is a story about this album and why there are two versions. The album is great, the Remastered 1999 CD captures the magic of the night.
On July 7, 1956 in Newport, Rhode Island at the Jazz Festival everything transformed for Duke Ellington. His Orchestra had been playing at Ice Skating Rinks, he was paying his players with his royalty money, for the jazz scene had changed. His was considered a novelty act, it had been more than a decade since he had a hit tune, clubs booked small ensemble groups, as Big Bands were a thing of the 1920’s and 1930’s. His Orchestra was set to play a small set in the opening of the festival and to close the festival after midnight in the graveyard slot. All the popular bands were scheduled earlier.
Ellington opened with “Festival Junction” for the second set, and it went down tight and swinging. Still, folks were leaving so he introduced some new material (two pieces really, with a tenor saxophone improvised solo connecting them), Ellington always pushing forward, always experimenting as a composer, called up “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”. During Paul Gonsalves’ almost seven minute tenor saxophone solo lightning struck. You can hear it happen on the CD recording. A beautiful blonde, Elaine Anderson, jumped out of her box and started dancing. Never underestimate the enthralling power of an enlivened blonde, as the whole crowd became electrified, jumping into the isles, standing on their chairs, everyone bursting into dance, shouting, and rushing the stage. There was passionate, rapturous, thunderous applause. And into the night, the crowd refused to let the moment die, insisting on more and Ellington delivered.
The record producer George Avakian said of the Newport crowd: “Halfway through Paul’s solo, it had become an enormous, single, living organism.” The critic Leonard Feather, reviewing the show for Down Beat magazine, wrote: “Here and there in the reduced, but still multitudinous crowd, a couple got up and started jitterbugging. Within minutes, the whole of Freedom Park was transformed as if struck by a thunderbolt … hundreds of spectators climbed up on their chairs to see the action; the band built the magnificent arrangement to its perennial peak and the crowd, spent, sat limply wondering what could follow this.” Soon after Duke Ellington was on the cover of Time Magazine, his career was jumpstarted and remained popular to the end.
So, why an album and then a remixed CD? Because the original solo by Paul Gonsalves was played into the wrong microphone. Many years later it was discovered it was played into the international broadcaster Voice of America microphone, and they had the tape. The original vinyl album is 40% live and 60% done in a studio after the concert. The solo on the vinyl album is from the studio recording. In 1996, it was discovered that the original concert was available, and they remixed the album and added to it to create the CD.
Side One of the vinyl opens with Festival Junction. A captivating clarinet solo preludes an upbeat, swinging, tight tune with some fun improvisation featuring many band members – trumpet solo, then tenor saxophone, then trombone, alto saxophone, trumpet again, it jumpin’ and tickin’. Blues to Be There is sultry. It features Duke on piano. Newport Up is alive and kickin’ it. It grabs your attention, makes you sit up and listen. Great solos.
Side Two begins with Jeeps Blues and full Big Band sound. I love the Blues, and this tune is in that perfect sexy jive tempo. Dig the soulful tenor saxophone solo. Some nice tight saxophone sectional work and alto saxophone has a turn. Then we have the studio version of Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.
I went to a Vegas Show once which featured impersonators of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. “Elvis” during his featured solo gave me his scarf. I know it isn’t a scarf from the real Elvis, but I treasure it, I kept it, I still have it and I love the memory of that night. This version of Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue is like that. I just don’t care it is a studio version of the saxophone solo. It jammin’, the excitement of the night is captured, I am snapping my fingers. Gonsalves is on fire.
In conclusion, this is a very accessible, easy to listen to jazz album. It captures Duke Ellington live and at his best at 57 no less. It is as close as I will get to being there that night in Newport, Rhode Island unless I acquire a working time machine. No one in jazz deserved more to be applauded for the rest of his life. I recommend this album because it is a solid, swinging, tight piece of work that Duke Ellington produced with all the love of his heart.