It happened exactly 60 years ago: DUKE ELLINGTON with PAUL GONSALVES & DIMINUENDO AND CRESCENDO IN BLUE — ‘Live’ at Birdland on June 30, 1951

For celebrating this very date, and the really sensational recording, here is a short excerpt from an e-mail I have sent to one of my best friends who is rather an expert for Miles Davis, Charlie Parker & Co.:

I got a quite decent Duke Ellington LP on another, similar bootleg label, with an early full length version of Diminuendo & Crescendo In Blue, with Paul Gonsalves, doing his famous ride —> almost 13 minutes, and already then, at Birdland, on June 30, 1951, 26 chorusses on the Blues in D flat:

DIMINUENDO AND CRESCENDO IN BLUE — Another story is the partly fake-sound on the famous Columbia LP Ellington At Newport.

It’s funny how often the Duke changes keys during that very number —

— First in E flat, then going over G & C, and a short F minor passage to D flat, remaining rooted there for the 26 chorusses, then a short piano trio interlude from G flat to E major, which is eventually going back to E flat for the 2nd part, and stays there up to the end with Cat Anderson’s screaming high notes.

— The “best” is: The whole LP runs a half-tone too fast, as usual with those bootlegs. — No problem for me, since I can turn a little screw.

— Here it is:

‘Live’ at Birdland, on June 30, 1951.

You may find pleasure in reading this little excerpt from Wikipedia, just in case you are too lazy to go there directly. — It’s such a nice passage that I’m including it here:

Strikingly, though, at Birdland Gonsalves drifts a whole bar ahead during the fourth chorus of his solo in which he attempts a complicated syncopated patter over the first six bars but loses four beats in the process.

It seemingly takes another eight or nine whole choruses before the listener can really be sure that both Duke Ellington and bassist Wendell Marshall having adjusted to regain synch with Gonsalves, who just storms on regardless, in his own world.

Despite this, it could be argued that the solo Gonsalves played at Birdland was considerably more invigorating and both melodically and harmonically inventive than the more famous 1956 Newport Jazz Festival rendition.

The Duke, cheering Paul


Nelson Williams, Cat Anderson, Harold Baker (tp) Ray Nance (tp, vl, v) Britt Woodman, Quentin Jackson, Juan Tizol (tb) Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts) Russell Procope (cl, as) Willie Smith (as) Paul Gonsalves (ts) Harry Carney (cl, as, bar) Duke Ellington (p) Wendell Marshall (b) Louis Bellson (d)

Blog owner’s note: Even Dukes can be wrong, since Ellington misdates his own composition as being written in 1939. — Some of Paul’s repetitive, very modern sounding phrases remind me strongly on Trane who did similar things at “All Blues” when he was concerting with Miles in Sweden, in March 1960. — The encouraging shouts, and the hand clapping are coming from the Duke.

Blog owner’s recommendation: Click on the cover to enlarge the liners.

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