page up

Sonothèque/Jazz/Ellingtonia/Duke Ellington/Ellington At Newport 1956 Complete

=> Watch the video story (Youtube)
  Duke Ellington - Ellington At Newport 1956 (Complete) - CD1
Track Title Year Length Comment Mode Codec Bitrate Size
1-01 The Star Spangled Banner 1956 01:10 Live (1st set early evening)
Stereo Vorbis 395 3,36 MB
1-02 Father Norman O'Connor Introduces Duke & The Orchestra/Duke Introduces Tune & Anderson, Jackson, & Procope 1956 03:39 Stereo Vorbis 289 7,60 MB
1-03 Black And Tan Fantasy 1956 06:21 Stereo Vorbis 337 15,35 MB
1-04 Duke Introduces Cook & Tune 1956 00:27 Stereo Vorbis 268 940,77 KB
1-05 Tea For Two 1956 03:34 Stereo Vorbis 360 9,25 MB
1-06 Duke & Band Leave Stage/Father Norman O'Connor Talks About The Festival 1956 02:29 Stereo Vorbis 276 4,97 MB
1-07 Take The A Train 1956 04:21 Live (2nd set late evening)
Stereo Vorbis 361 11,32 MB
1-08 Duke Announces Strayhorn's A Train & Nance Duke Introduces Festival Suite, Part 1 & Hamilton 1956 00:41 Stereo Vorbis 251 1,29 MB
1-09 Part I-Festival Junction 1956 08:05 Stereo Vorbis 360 20,88 MB
1-10 Duke Announces Soloists; Introduces Part II 1956 00:42 Stereo Vorbis 267 1,41 MB
1-11 Part II-Blues To Be There 1956 07:09 Stereo Vorbis 333 17,09 MB
1-12 Duke Announces Nance & Procope; Introduces Part III 1956 00:15 Stereo Vorbis 374 742,58 KB
1-13 Part III-Newport Up 1956 05:32 Stereo Vorbis 349 13,88 MB
1-14 Duke Announces Hamilton, Gonsalves, & Terry/Duke Introduces Carney & Tune 1956 00:26 Stereo Vorbis 258 887,18 KB
1-15 Sophisticated Lady 1956 03:52 Stereo Vorbis 357 9,94 MB
1-16 Duke Announces Grissom & Tune 1956 00:17 Stereo Vorbis 255 587,17 KB
1-17 Day In, Day Out 1956 03:49 Stereo Vorbis 349 9,58 MB
1-18 Duke Introduce Tune(s) And Paul Gonsalves Interludes 1956 00:26 Stereo Vorbis 269 912,96 KB
1-19 Diminuendo In Blue 1956 14:15 Stereo Vorbis 339 34,58 MB
1-20 Announcements, Pandemonium 1956 00:44 Stereo Vorbis 220 1,21 MB
  20 file(s) Length: 01:08:14 Size: 165,68 MB

  Duke Ellington - Ellington At Newport 1956 (Complete) - CD2
Track Title Year Length Comment Mode Codec Bitrate Size
2-01 Duke Introduces Johnny Hodges 1956 00:18 Live (2nd set late evening)
Stereo Vorbis 246 612,97 KB
2-02 I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) 1956 03:38 Stereo Vorbis 324 8,49 MB
2-03 Jeep's Blues 1956 04:58 Stereo Vorbis 335 11,97 MB
2-04 Duke Calms Crowd, Introduces Nance & Tune 1956 00:09 Stereo Vorbis 243 333,50 KB
2-05 Tulip Or Turnip 1956 02:50 Stereo Vorbis 357 7,27 MB
2-06 Riot Prevention 1956 01:07 Stereo Vorbis 224 1,85 MB
2-07 Skin Deep 1956 09:12 Stereo Vorbis 335 22,12 MB
2-08 Mood Indigo 1956 01:15 Stereo Vorbis 223 2,07 MB
2-09 Studio Concert 1956 03:56 Studio
Stereo Vorbis 224 6,37 MB
2-10 Father Norman O'Connor Introduces Duke Ellington/Duke Introduces New Work, Part I, & Hamilton 1956 01:02 Stereo Vorbis 273 2,08 MB
2-11 Part I-Festival Junction 1956 08:46 Stereo Vorbis 240 15,09 MB
2-12 Duke Announces Soloists; Introduces Part II 1956 00:30 Stereo Vorbis 248 981,26 KB
2-13 Part II-Blues To Be There 1956 07:53 Stereo Vorbis 236 13,37 MB
2-14 Duke Announces Nance & Procope; Introduces Part III 1956 00:11 Stereo Vorbis 273 417,87 KB
2-15 Part III-Newport Up 1956 05:12 Stereo Vorbis 232 8,71 MB
2-16 Duke Announces Hamilton, Gonsalves, & Terry/Pause/Duke Introduces Johnny Hodges 1956 00:12 Stereo Vorbis 240 424,17 KB
2-17 I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) 1956 03:46 Stereo Vorbis 242 6,58 MB
2-18 Jeep's Blues 1956 04:32 Stereo Vorbis 234 7,66 MB
  18 file(s) Length: 00:59:27 Size: 116,33 MB
  Total 39 file(s) Length: 02:14:26 Size: 301,68 MB

(Source: Wikipedia)
Ellington at Newport is a 1956 jazz live album by Duke Ellington and his band, recording their historic 1956 concert at the Newport Jazz Festival, a concert which revitalized Ellington's flagging career. Jazz promoter George Wein describes the 1956 concert as "the greatest performance of [Ellington's] career... It stood for everything that jazz had been and could be.". It is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, ranking it "one of the most famous... in jazz history".


Duke and his band had slipped in popularity with the rise of bebop, the jazz style which was developed by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk, among others. Many big bands had folded completely by the mid-1950s, but Duke had kept his band working, occasionally doing shows in ice-skating rinks to stay busy.[clarification needed] The Duke Ellington Orchestra had done some European tours during the early 1950s, and Duke was chiefly supporting the band himself through royalties earned on his popular compositions of the 1920s to 1940s. At the time of the festival, the band did not even have a record deal.



Duke and his orchestra arrived to play at the Newport Jazz Festival at a time when jazz festivals were a fairly new innovation. Ellington's band was the first and last group to play at the Newport Festival. The first, short set began at 8:30 and included "The Star Spangled Banner", "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "Tea for Two". This set was played without a few of the band's members as they were unable to be found at the start of the show.

After performances by the other groups, the remainder of the band was located and the real performance began. Duke led off with "Take the 'A' Train", followed by a new composition by Duke and Billy Strayhorn, a suite of three pieces: "Festival Junction", "Blues to Be There", and "Newport Up". This suite was intended to be the showstopper, but the reception was not as enthusiastic as was hoped.

Following the Festival suite, Duke called for Harry Carney's baritone saxophone performance of "Sophisticated Lady". Then the orchestra played "Day In, Day Out". Following this, Duke announced that they were pulling out "some of our 1938 vintage": a pair of blues, "Diminuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue" joined by an improvised interval, which Duke announced would be played by tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves.

The Gonsalves solo:

Ellington had been experimenting with the reworking for several years before the Newport performance; a release of one of his Carnegie Hall concerts of the 1940s presented the two old blues joined by a wordless vocal passage, "Transbluecency," but in time he chose to join the pair by a saxophone solo, handing it to Gonsalves, experimenting with it in shorter performances before the Newport show, where Ellington is believed to have told Gonsalves to blow as long as he felt like blowing when the solo slot came. It came after two choruses of an Ellington piano break at what was formerly the conclusion of "Diminuendo in Blue."

As performed at Newport, the experiment ended up revamping the Ellington reputation and fortune for the rest of Ellington's life. The previous experiments culminated in a 27-chorus solo by Gonsalves — simple, but powerful — backed only by bassist Jimmy Woode, drummer Sam Woodyard, and Ellington himself pounding punctuating piano chords and (with several audible band members as well) hollering urgings-on ("Come on, Paul — dig in! Dig in!") to his soloist. The normally sedate crowd was on their feet dancing in the aisles, reputedly provoked by a striking platinum blonde woman in a black evening dress, Elaine Anderson, getting up and dancing enthusiastically. When the solo ended and Gonsalves collapsed in exhaustion, Ellington himself took over for two choruses of piano solo before the full band returned for the "Crescendo in Blue" portion, finishing with a rousing finale featuring high-note trumpeter Cat Anderson.


After that performance, pandemonium took over. Duke calmed the crowd by announcing, "If you've heard of the saxophone, then you've heard of Johnny Hodges." Duke's best known alto saxophonist then played two of his most famous numbers in "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)" followed by "Jeep's Blues." Still the crowd refused to disperse so Duke called for Ray Nance to sing "Tulip or Turnip." The festival's organizers tried to cut off the show at this point but once again were met with angry refusals to end this magical evening.

Duke told the announcer that he would end the show and wanted to thank the audience but instead announced he had a "very heavy request for Sam Woodyard in 'Skin Deep'", a number written by former Ellington drummer Louis Bellson. This drum solo feature was the final number featured, followed by a farewell from Duke over "Mood Indigo". In his farewell, he thanked the crowd for the "wonderful way in which you've inspired us this evening." He then finished with his trademark statement, "You are very beautiful, very lovely and we do love you madly." With that, the historic show concluded.


Columbia Records recorded the concert and an album soon followed. Duke appeared soon after on the cover of Time, and his resurgent popularity lasted throughout the rest of his life. Some of his best albums occurred during the next decade and a half, until age and illness began to claim some of Duke's band members and, in 1974, Ellington himself.

In 1996, a tape was discovered in the annals of the Voice of America radio broadcasts which changed everything. It turned out that the 1956 album which was produced had indeed been fabricated with studio performances mixed with some live recordings and artificial applause. Only about 40% of the 1956 recording was actually live. The reason for this was that Ellington felt the under-rehearsed Festival suite had not been performed up to recording release standards, and he wished to have a better version on tape if it was to be issued on record. Producer George Avakian did as Ellington asked and the band entered the studio immediately after the festival. Avakian mixed in the studio version with portions of the live performance. The applause was dubbed onto the original release to cover up the fact that Gonsalves had been playing into the wrong microphone and was often completely inaudible.

On the 1999 reissue, the VoA live recording and the live Columbia tapes were painstakingly pieced together using digital technology to create a true stereophonic recording of the most well-known Ellington performance of the past fifty years, this time with Gonsalves's solo clearly heard, though the beginning of the audience cheering and noise at around the seventh or eighth chorus of the solo can still be heard as well. (Stereophonic LP records were not mass-produced until 1957, the year after the recording.) The 1999 re-issue of this record, Ellington at Newport (Complete), preserves one of the most inspired performances of the Duke Ellington Orchestra's career.


  • Harry Carney - Baritone sax
  • John Willie Cook - Trumpet
  • Duke Ellington - Piano
  • Paul Gonsalves - Tenor sax
  • Jimmy Grissom - Voice
  • Jimmy Hamilton - Tenor sax (absent during the early evening live performance)
  • Johnny Hodges - Alto sax
  • Quentin Jackson - Trombone
  • William "Cat" Anderson - Trumpet
  • Ray Nance - Voice (absent during the early evening live performance)
  • Willis R. Nance - Trumpet
  • Russell Procope - Alto sax
  • John Sanders - Trombone
  • Clark Terry - Trumpet (absent during the early evening live performance)
  • James Woode - Bass (replaced by Al Lucas during the early evening live performance)
  • Britt Woodman - Trombone
  • Sam Woodyard - Drums
  • Jo Jones (uncredited) - rolled 'Christian Science Monitor' (this is very controversial, see below)

Complete CD booklet (32 pages): HTML | PDF

Time Magazine, August
                20, 1956
1956 LP back
George Avakian's liner notes (PDF)

Video 1
Video 2

The Jo Jones controversy

George Avakian's story (1956):

Phil Schaap's clarification (1999):

However, Duke himself confirms Avakian's story in his "Music is my Mistress" book (Da Capo Press, 1976).

Elaine Anderson ("the girl who launched 7,000 cheers")
Dance to the Duke (02/2 DEMS 9)

In 3 or 4 years on the Duke-Lym list, and having read several biographies of Duke, the girl dancing has been mentioned often re the Newport event, but usually as someone reacting to the music i.e., she was one more sign that the audience became very excited with Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. What I've seen in the past couple of days, though, is a metamorphosis of the young lady into almost being the primary reason the performance was performed. I don't buy it. It seems to be somewhat revisionist history, unless all previous commentary is flawed. David Palmquist (27Jun2001)

David Palmquist hit it right when he pointed out that the young lady dancing was not the reason for Gonsalves' solo continuing or for the band's continuing. I was there. The young lady, with her male escort, got up from their aisle seat and began dancing in the aisle. Others also started to do the same thing in other aisles close to the stage. The driving rhythm was so infectious that those couple only represented in motion what everyone was feeling the sheer joy of the moment. The crowd began rising from their seats at about the same time. We were about in the middle, and we stood just to see the band as the music continued. We couldn't dance, but we could grin and sway, which we did. This was not any kind of riot situation. Everyone was smiling, grinning, happy, joyous. It was one hell of an experience.

Frankly, the jazz rating of the solo was of no concern, at least to me, at the time. The primary thing was the swinging rhythm, just the right tempo, and Gonsalves rode it beautifully. It was joy through music, which is one of the great gifts of jazz. Jack Heaney

I have some more information concerning Jack Heaney's posting re: "Gonsalves' Solo at Newport," in the form of a reply to some questions I put to Mrs. Elaine Anderson, the lady who danced while Paul played. I will intersperse my own comments as appropriate, with reference to what Jack and I observed as well as Elaine:

Dear George [Avakian]:

. . . . . to answer your questions and to let the internet group of Ellington collectors and scholars know the truth and the facts of that momentous evening, let me recall to the best of my ability (after all it was a long time ago) what really happened: HERE GOES:

My husband, Larry Anderson (Anderson, Little Co.), Ted LeSavoy and Ed Capuano (Newport Finishing Co.) bought the box for the entire festival as we always had from the inception of the very first festival in the Newport Casino. After the Chico Hamilton group finished playing, the Ellington band took the stage at which time it was getting quite late and a lot of the audience was leaving and they played "The Newport Jazz Festival Suite" not too inspiring at this juncture.

G. A. interrupts: Elaine is right. As Duke had anticipated, the band would disappoint him and themselves because of lack of preparation. He told them just before they went on-stage, "I know we haven't had time to prepare the Suite properly, but don't worry if it doesn't come off well, because I've asked George to reserve the studio Monday Strayhorn will mark the score as we play, and he and George and I will check the tape against it Monday morning, and I'll call you at the hotel to come in the afternoon and we'll fix anything that needs fixing. So after the Suite, let's relax and have a good time let's play Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue . ."

E. A. resumes: Ellington then called for Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue the audience was very cold and at about the fourth or fifth chorus Jo Jones, who had played drums that night with Teddy Wilson and who was sitting on the steps at the edge of the platform, started thumping a rolled up newspaper in the palm of his hands and called out "Let's get this thing going" at which point Teddy LeSavoy got up and pulled me from my seat and pushed me in front of the bandstand and said, "Go Elaine" (I was infamous for my dancing) then Paul Gonsalves started his solo and the more he wailed, the more I danced ALONE. No one danced with me and I was never aware of any other dancers in the crowd.

G. A. again: I am sure what Jack Heaney saw was Teddy getting Elaine started. I was on the stage at stage left; she was directly in front of the stage, slightly toward my right. The stage was less than four feet high. If she had taken five steps forward and I had taken three, I could have reached down and shaken her hand, but I did not see her begin because I was concentrating on the performance, and of course the moment I saw Paul blow into the wrong mike, eyes screwed tight, and Duke jumped up from his chair to yell at Paul "The other mike! The other mike!" which Paul never heard, of course I had no interest in the commotion taking place just below me. But as I ran down the steps to where our engineers had set up their equipment, I was aware that a platinum blonde was dancing alone, by then. Halfway down I nearly collided with my assistant, Cal Lampley (Irving Townsend did not participate in any of the recording, then or later) who was racing up to ask me "What's going on? We're not getting enough of Paul!" By the time I went back on-stage, other couples had started to emulate Elaine, who of course remained oblivious to everything but the music.

E. A. resumes: Who caused the moment? It's how you look at it the glass was half filled? I did. Or the glass was half empty? Gonsalves did. Take your choice. They tell me I saved the night for the Ellington Band and that I was the cause of an historic event in Jazz history. In later years, I attended a concert in Grace Cathedral at the invitation of Duke Ellington and he admitted that I was the force that put his band back on the Jazz Map at that time. Best regards, Elaine Anderson

Coda by G. A.: Yes, Elaine got a lot of publicity, but never by name. That was the last set of the 1956 Festival, and nobody ever found out who she was until she introduced herself to me the following year. Nothing like going to the primary source! George Avakian

Thank you, Mr. Avakian, for telling us the story of the lady who started the dancing at Duke's 1956 Newport concert. It sure fits in with my memories of that evening. As I said, I was seated near the middle; when she began dancing, it was something I saw, but it was not my main attention. I was watching and listening to Gonsalves. But as the mood swelled like a wave through the crowd, sweeping up from the stage, the crowd began to stand, and we did too to see the stage. It was impossible to see how many were dancing in the aisles, but it was happening. It seemed nothing remarkable, but just another expression of the joy the music created. Jack Heaney

Excerpt from Myself Among Others: A Life in Music by George Wein

Nineteen fifty-six was the Newport debut of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. I had struck an agreement with Irving Townsend, Columbia Records’s A&R man, earlier in the year. It would be good publicity to have some recordings from Newport. Our arrangement seemed like a good deal: for each artist recorded, the record company was to pay us an amount equal to that artist’s performance fee. As it turned out, it was a terrible deal, because the record company got exclusive rights and all of the royalties.

Columbia recorded the equivalent of four LPs during the 1956 festival: Louis Armstrong & Eddie Condon at Newport (CL 931); Dave Brubeck & J. J. Johnson-Kai Winding at Newport (CL 932); Duke Ellington & The Buck Clayton All-Stars at Newport, two vols. (CL 933); and Ellington at Newport (CL 934).

History, aided by this last LP, has rendered Newport ’56 practically synonymous with Ellington. Like Miles Davis before him, Duke came to the festival in the midst of a discouraging critical and commercial slump. The band had not been faring well in recent years. Duke didn’t even have a record deal at the time; he and Irving Townsend casually discussed the terms of a contract in a tent backstage. It was this festival appearance that launched the next highly successful phase of Ellington’s career. Duke’s victory, however, was uncalculated. He had not, as some reports have it, deliberately chosen Newport as the platform for his comeback.

On the opening night of the festival, Thursday, after we had changed out of our sopping clothes, everyone joined the Lorillards for a kickoff party at Quartrel. Louis and Elaine once again served the traditional Newport dinner party fare: scrambled eggs and champagne. At about two o’clock in the morning, there was a phone call for me. It was Duke. He asked me how things were going at the festival. “Everything’s fine,” I replied. “What are you planning for your show on Saturday?”

“Oh, nothing special,” he said casually. “A medley, and a couple of other things.”

“Edward,” I admonished gravely, “here I am, working my fingers to the bone to perpetuate the genius that is Ellington-and I’m not getting any cooperation from you whatsoever. You’d better come in here swinging.” Duke was comfortable enough with me to endure this sort of reprimand. I suspect that he considered Newport as just another gig, and he was prepared to treat it that way. But I was keenly aware of the need for new material and a strong showing by the band. Duke assumed that people wanted to hear “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady” — hence their place in the medley. And, while a large portion of any audience probably would be happy with such a performance, an important minority wanted to hear new material. This minority included Duke’s most loyal fans. It also included all of the critics who were poised to tear up any artist who appeared to be performing by rote. It would be disastrous if Duke and his men took the Newport stage and sleepwalked their way through the old familiar book.

I had commissioned or requested new works from a number of groups that year. The Charles Mingus Sextet had debuted two songs — “Tonight at Noon” and “Tourist in Manhattan” — on Thursday night. J.J. Johnson had composed a piece that would premiere on Friday night as “PT.” Teddy Charles was to play four new compositions on Saturday afternoon. Duke had promised something as well. He and Billy Strayhorn delivered with a three-part suite so hastily assembled that, as Duke announced: “We haven’t even had time to type it yet.” The final concert of the 1956 festival began and ended with Ellington. The band took the stage promptly at 8:30, christening the affair with “The Star-Spangled Banner” before moving on to old favorites “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Tea for Two.” The set was then cut short; the band would not again take the stage until the last set. I had planned the evening in this fashion; I would never have opened a show with Ellington, unless it was a brief introduction. The first few songs were to be a taste of things to come, and the band was to come back to close the evening. This was the way I had programmed the show a few nights earlier, with Count Basie. And so the Ellington band whetted the crowd’s appetite, then surrendered the stage to the Bud Shank Quartet, the Jo Jones Trio, Jimmy Giuffre, Anita O’Day, the Friedrich Gulda Septet, and the Chico Hamilton band.

For more than forty years, the only public document of the Ellington set was Columbia Records’s Ellington at Newport (CL 934) — Duke’s all-time best-selling album. And for all that time, overdubbed crowd noise and spliced-in Newport ambience masked the fact that over half of the album was recorded in the studio on July 9, the Monday after the festival. This included the entirety of “The Newport Suite.” Fortunately, the LP did include the now legendary live performance of Ellington at Newport in 1956: a medley of “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue,” charts #107 and #108 in the Ellington book. More specifically, the climax was a twenty-seven chorus tenor solo interlude by Paul Gonsalves, linking the two tunes. This was the performance that put the Ellington band back on the map. Most accounts have it that “Diminuendo” was a surprise call by Duke. One story has Duke assembling the band backstage and suggesting the number, and the band looking around at each other in bewilderment. Then Paul Gonsalves asks, “That’s the one where I blow?” Duke answers, “Yes, and don’t stop until I tell you.” If this scene is to be believed, we might also consider Gonsalves’s recollection, as reported by Phil Schaap, that he first played the “Diminuendo” interlude to an empty house at Birdland in 1951. Paul claimed that Duke promised to feature him on the tune again sometime, in front of a much larger crowd.

Whatever the case, the consensus has it that “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” was a surprise to the band as well as the fans. It was to be the show-closer. Duke likely placed it in that spot in lieu of the Newport Suite, which had been recorded the day before in New York, but was still rough around the edges. I like to think that the decision could have been a direct response to my earlier admonition. Duke kicked off the tune with three confident piano choruses. I was standing on the side of the stage during the performance, along with many of the musicians who wanted a better view. Jo Jones was sitting back there, egging Sam Woodyard on. The band barreled through the arrangement and the first movement reached its climax. Then Gonsalves took center stage.

Paul Gonsalves had been with Duke’s band since autumn of 1950. He had stepped into the formidable shadow of his hero — Ellington’s last great tenor, Ben Webster. Paul was in fact a devotee of Webster. But he had paid his own dues as well, working with Basie and Gillespie in the 1940s. He was a moving ballad player. In fact, it was for this talent that Paul was known — before his Newport appearance associated him with hard-blowing blues.

His ballad playing reflected a bit of his personality: He was a diffident person, quite the introvert. He was also something of a lost soul. It was possibly only within the structured, organic setting of Ellington’s band that Paul could achieve greatness.

At the proper moment, Gonsalves dug in with his tenor and started blowing. Somewhere around the seventh chorus, it happened. A young blonde woman in a stylish black dress sprung up out of her box seat and began to dance. She had caught the spirit, and everyone took notice — Duke included. In a few moments, that exuberant feeling had spread throughout the crowd. People surged forward, leaving their seats and jitterbugging wildly in the aisles. Hundreds of them got up and stood on their chairs; others pressed forward toward the stage. Sam Woodyard and Jimmy Woode kept driving the beat mercilessly. The power of that beat, and the ferocity of Paul’s solo, is what stirred the crowd to those heights. Duke himself was totally caught up in the moment. The audience was swelling up like a dangerous high tide.

By the time Cat Anderson hit the final blast of “Crescendo,” the sea of bobbing heads had whipped itself into a squall. The tune ended and the applause and cheering was immense — stronger, louder, and more massive than anything ever heard at a jazz concert before. I was concerned with the crowd, as was the festival security. Although several thousand fans had left the grounds earlier in the evening, there were still 7,000 people screaming for more music. Well aware of the situation, Duke wisely followed the powerhouse blues with something more precious and low-key.

“I’m sure if you’ve heard of the saxophone,” he declared, “you’ve heard of Johnny Hodges.” Hodges, who had rejoined the band in the fall of ’55, was still one of Duke’s most beloved sidemen. Hodges played “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” and the crowd relaxed. Then the band did “Jeep’s Blues,” once again with Hodges.

Seeing an opportunity to cut things short, I waved to Duke to stop the show and to get off the stage. But to my chagrin, he grabbed the microphone and reassured the crowd: “Oh, we’ve got a lot more, we’ve got a lot more, we’ve got a lot more.” They ate it up. He called “Tulip or Turnip,” a vocal feature for Ray Nance. Once Nance got on, there was no going back.

The years had wiped out my memory of the following sequence of events. The reissued concert tapes bring it all back. As “Tulip or Turnip” drew to a close, I ran out and seized the microphone.

“Duke Ellington, Ladies and Gentlemen! Duke Ellington!” The crowd was in a state of uproar. The band was exultant, willing to play all night. Listening to the recording, you can hear me telling Duke: “That’s it!” End of story! You can also hear Duke pleading with me: “One more. We can do one more.”


“One more, George. They want one more.”

“No, Duke!”

The crowd was demanding more Ellington. Angry boos mixed with cheering. I was without question the most unpopular person around at that moment. They wanted another song. “No! No! I mean it now, Duke.”

His eyes were looking blankly in my direction, as if through me. I could tell he was trying to think of the next tune. “Let me tell them good night,” he pleaded. “Can I tell them good night...“

“No more music, Duke...“

But I let him approach the microphone for a final adieu, one last “We love you madly” for the masses. They quieted as Duke stepped up and began to speak. “Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen.” The roar began again. Duke continued over the din. “We have a very heavy request — for Sam Woodyard! And “Skin Deep”! Heedless of my fruitless commands, Duke had gone right ahead — calling a drum feature! I shouted again, in vain. It was out of control, out of my hands. Woodyard drilled a barrage of syncopated eighth-notes and rolls. The horns came in again, swinging. It’s much easier for me to enjoy this now than it was then. My heart was beating in my chest, keeping time with Woodyard’s double bass drums. When would it end? Well, after “Skin Deep,” the band slipped into something more comfortable: “Mood Indigo.” And, over the dulcet sweep of his saxophone section, Duke spoke the final words of Newport ’56: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we certainly want to thank you for the way you’ve inspired us this evening. You’re very beautiful, very sweet, and we do love you madly. As we say good night, we want to give you our best wishes, and hope we have this pleasure again next year. Thank you very much.”

What prompted Duke to play as much as he did that evening? It was not merely the allure of playing to his most responsive audience — although there’s no doubt that this was a major factor. Duke’s marathon performance was a masterful exhibition, not only of musicianship but also of his awareness of the power of music. Had the band left the stage after “Diminuendo and Crescendo,” or even after “Jeep’s Blues,” it would have been wrong. The track after “Tulip or Turnip,” which contains my argument with Duke, has been listed in the reissued CD as “Riot Prevention.” This is a rather colorful exaggeration; jazz fans do not riot.

Nevertheless, this was a crowd to be reckoned with, appeased. And so Duke Ellington gave them what they wanted. He gave them more than they could ever hope to absorb. “Skin Deep” was the final of several climaxes that evening, and he knew that eventually things would cool down. Duke taught me a lesson that night, one of many I would learn by his example. This particular lesson would come in handy on several occasions in the unforeseeable future.

It was an historic occasion; it was perhaps one of the first musical “happenings” of its kind. That sort of audience response would become more common in the soon-to-come rock-and-roll era; they have happenings like that all the time. But no one had ever witnessed anything like it in 1956, and no one could have predicted or expected it. It was purely a result of the power of that timeless, swinging music. In retrospect, the length of Gonsalves’s tenor solo and its commercial appeal might have had a future influence on the willingness of producers to record lengthy solos by such giants as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane.

I can’t remember what I said to Ellington after the performance. I do recall that he was in a state of euphoria. He had just had the greatest performance of his life, and he probably suspected as well as anyone the impact it would have on his career. Columbia Records made a major record out of Ellington at Newport. And although the album was in large part a studio fabrication, the piece “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” was the genuine article. It would have been futile to attempt to recapture that once-in-a-lifetime performance.

The success of the album was due to a simple fact: Duke at Newport was much more than the music. It stood for everything that jazz had been and could be. It was the story of Duke Ellington and the story of Paul Gonsalves. It was the story of the blues, majestic and low-down and utterly real. Duke’s image soon graced the cover of Time magazine. Like Miles Davis the year before, Ellington had not only ended a long dry spell; he had used the stage at Newport to skyrocket to new heights. The slump was over.

Filed on 8/06/2016