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This review is from: Ellington Complete At Newport (Audio CD)
'Ellington At Newport' turned out to be the best-selling album of the Duke's career largely due to the exceptional performances of the soloists on the album. But Ellington's compositions always gave great scope for improvisation by his band and it's his own enthusiasm and momentum that spurred the band on to great things that night.
On 'Black & Tan Fantasy' Cat Anderson's solo is a throwback to the era in which it was composed, while Willie Cook on 'Tea For Two' swings unstoppable. Ellington himself puts in some spirited piano playing at the beginning of 'Take The A Train' and 'Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue'. 'Festival Junction' is an inspired name for the opening part of the festival suite as it builds and builds in its thumping and sophisticated way, much like the rest of the concert. Then a slight respite with Russell Procopej's lilting clarinet on 'Blues To Be There', before back to the frenetic pace of the earlier part with 'Newport Up'. Here the notes and tempo seem to crash and burn against each other in a manner more reminscent of bepop than swing.
The there's the effortless, breezy solo of Harry Carney on 'Sophisticated Lady' and try as he might, poor Jimmy Grisham's vocal on 'Day In, Day Out' just doesn't match the power and sincerity of the backing instrumentation.
On Paul Gonsalves performance of his career, the rest of the band aren't slow in egging him on to greater and greater heights through enthusiastic shouts and claps. This appreciative support seems oddly lacking in the other soloists performances. After the riotous greeting of this number, Ellington seems to use Johnny Hodges laid-back playing on 'I Got It Bad' and 'Jeep's Blues' as a way of quietening the crowd. Ray Nance does slightly better than Grisham's earlier performance, with his satchmo-singing on 'Tulip or Turnip' before Sam Woodyard whips the crowd into a frenzy again with his remarkable drum soloing on 'Skin Deep'.
His riot control complete, Ellingtion slips away under the auspicies of 'Mood Indigo'.