Thursday, October 19, 2006

Paul Fucking Gonsalves - A Hepcat Rocks Out

Last night, as I was scrolling through my Boris' offerings - Boris the Black is my iPod in case you were wondering - it occurred to me that I haven't listened to any jazz in a while.

So, to correct that little flaw in my recent listening habits, out came some jazz. New jazz wasn't going to cut it at all, so old school it was - a return to the classics. Bust out some root jazz.

I started out some Miles Davis. I like Miles just fine. He's cool, he's smooth and a bit of a dick - but I never knew him so that last part doesn't bother me much. Anyway, it was a set from the Plug Nickel.

Good stuff.

Seminal stuff.

Legendary stuff.

It was getting on my nerves actually. Sometimes you're not in the mood for good, seminal, legendary stuff. But, sometimes you are and you just don't realize it.

Looking for something else, I stopped and thought about a performance that I haven't heard in a while and decided that I just had to hear it. I quickly scrolled down to the 'D' section and there it was.

Duke Ellington - Live at Newport
.

The concert was and is a musical legend. Rain had been drenching the grounds all day, but the crowd that remained was still in a rare mood. Duke and the boys took the stage and played like crazy - crazy I tell ya, those cats jammed. The crowd, the band, the confluence of events leading to this one night - in short, everything - clicked together and the place went nuts.

There was nearly a riot when the authorities got worried and tried to shut the Duke down. On the re-release of the recording (which is a return to the fully live recording) you can hear the Duke offstage telling 'the man' that the place will riot if they shut him down, but if they give him a few more songs he'll bring the boil down to a simmer.

Legendary stuff indeed.

But there was one song - one performance - that I wanted to hear.

The rest is great stuff to be sure, but the pinnacle has to be Paul Gonsalves' incredible solo on Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. If ever there was a time when one man went beyond the limits of ordinary and transcended earthly bonds, this was it.

Duke Ellington - Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue - Live at Newport


Gonsalves was a good player - a solid performer - but not a stellar name at the time. He was part of the band - an important piece of the puzzle, but not the big star. Anyway, the Duke had a couple of pieces that they had been working on putting together, spliced with a bit of a blues inspired solo by Gonsalves in the middle. The Duke had given the greenlight to Gonsalves to let 'er rip on the solo and on this one night in Newport, Gonsalves did just that.

Forty seven choruses - a six-minute, legendary solo effort. That's 47 choruses on the fly, just improvising and making it wail.

Starting up about 3:50 into the song, Gonsalves starts up his solo. The band has been going good, but this brings it up. As the solo builds - about a minute into the solo - the band starts catching on that this is some crazy shit happening and starts cheering Gonsalves on.

Three minutes in and they're all just going nuts. You can hear the individual band members cheering and yelling, you can hear the Duke egging him on too, with a great 'oh yeah!' at about five minutes into the solo. And it keeps building until Gonsalves after a bit more than six minutes of soloing kicks it back to the piano, clearly spent by the effort.

The crowd has been driven into a frenzy by this point.

Part of the legend is a mysterious platinum blonde in a black who starts dancing like crazy during the solo. The rest of the crowd just goes nuts.

This performance marked the return of Duke Ellington to the top of the jazz ladder and rejuvenated the swing jazz scene for many years to come.

Good stuff.

Seminal stuff.

Legendary stuff.

And, holy crap, is it great! I listened to it twice.

6 comments:

Josh said...

You were totally high when you listened to that, man.

(Seriously, that was great. Thanks for posting the song.)

Shawn said...

Dude...you got some brownies or chips or something?

Sadly, not high at all, I was at work.

dbackdad said...

I'll have to find that. I love jazz.

Josh said...

You get high at work? Man, that's crrrraaaaazzzzy. That is so awesome.

Shawn said...

DBDad - Make sure to spring for the newer deluxe re-release. The original is good but the order was changed and many of the solos were overdubbed with studio tracks because of a problem with the original recording.

The newer version is actually two simultaneous recordings - a second recording that was believed lost was found and that allowed them to release a true live version of the show.

Josh - It's just me and Towelly back behind the bleachers tokin' away.

Josh said...

I have no idea what's goin' on...