|Duke Ellington - Ellington at Newport 1956|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Tuesday, 11 May 1999|
| Performance 9 | Sound 7 |
Before one can fully appreciate this two disc set they must know of its’ remarkable background. As the band was preparing to get on stage four key members were found to be missing and Duke pulled the plug after three numbers. After the missing band members showed up the band took the stage just before midnight and played until the promoter attempted to pull them off the stage nearly starting a riot. The technical side of this release also has an interesting story in which a true stereo mix was created years after the performance and is detailed in the extensive liner notes.
The first disc contains over an hour of the concert in stereo, and on disc two, the remainder of the concert and the studio session. ‘Take The A Train’ was the first number performed by the band when they came back on stage. This signature piece of Duke’s contains a great solo by Ray Nance who was one of the band members who had earlier disappeared. This track also demonstrates the main sonic shortcoming of the disc. While the performance was outstanding, at times the imaging suffers with individual performers seeming to wander about. The Newport Jazz Festival Suite was written especially for this performance and is presented both in its live version and again on disc two as a studio version. The live version has enormous raw energy and really swings. The three part suite culminates with some great clarinet, trumpet and sax playing.
The high point of the two disc set is ‘Diminuendo in Blue’ and ‘Crescendo in Blue’ with an amazing tenor sax solo by Paul Gonsalves. The sax solo between ‘Diminuendo in Blue’ and ‘Crescendo in Blue’ went for 27 amazingly energetic choruses driving the crowd wild.
If I had unlimited space I could go on even further discussing the studio mixes and the performances of other great musicians such as Johnny Hodges, there is so much great material on these discs. The magic of these performances is clearly presented on this painstakingly remastered release and is highly recommended for any jazz fan and required listening for the Duke aficionado.