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on 7 May 2006
The reviews below are, IMO, pretty churlish for what is one of the great live albums of all time, in -any- genre.

The original 'Ellington at Newport' LP consisted of the legendary Diminuendo/Crescendo In Blue performance (of which more in a bit), plus some re-recorded stuff with overdubbed applause, a shoddy and largely faked document of what was reportedly one of the stonkingest live gigs in history. The Columbia team have hunted down the original tapes and reconstructed the entire concert, bum notes and all. (The bum notes were the reason why Columbia insisted on Ellington rerecording a lot of the stuff in the studio a few days later. This CD includes the re-recordings, but restores the original performances, so nobody feels left out.)

By the time Duke and his Orchestra hit the stage for their second set at 11.45pm, they were annoyed at having been pulled off after a short set hours earlier and being made to wait before they could play again. Ellington's critical stock was down in 1956; he was regarded as a pioneer whose time had passed. He must have felt that he had something to prove. Most of the first disc of this CD consists of the first half of the concert; the Orchestra makes tidy and slick work of a handful of Ellington standards, and they do a nice job on the suite composed specially for the Festival. Then Ellington announces the Diminuendo/Crescendo medley. It all goes smoothly enough until, Diminuendo having diminuendoed, Duke leads via a brief piano solo into Paul Gonsalves' tenor spot. Gonsalves starts obliquely and softly, then gradually gets more confident. By the sixth chorus he's starting to dig in. By the seventh chorus, everyone knows something unusual is happening.

What was happening was a good player having a moment of greatness. Gonsalves keeps going, with the increasingly vocal encouragement of the rest of the band, spinning out riffs and ideas and generally refusing to give up, and with the backing of the rhythm section he drags the entire performance from being a solidly professional gig into a once-off event. Gonsalves' solo is proof that, to make great music, you don't always have to be a technical wizard. In 1956 Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, to name but two, were more obviously genius tenor players than Paul Gonsalves. You just have to have the cojones to bring forth what's inside you, and trust that the musicians you're playing with and the audience you're playing to will go along with it, and this one time at least, Gonsalves pulled it off.

When Gonsalves finally yields the stand, and the band picks up with Crescendo In Blue, the tension rises even further to an ecstatic finale. The audience pandemonium when they finally stop is like something you'd expect from Beatlemania. It's one of the most incredible group performances ever recorded, and is the principal reason why anyone who loves music needs to have this album.

That's not even the end. Ellington judged that to leave the stage at that point would provoke a riot, so he called on Johnny Hodges to cool the crowd. Hodges plays beautifully, and the result would have normally been the climax of the concert, if Gonsalves hadn't already raised the roof with twenty-seven choruses. (Hodges himself had recently returned to Ellington's band after a sabbatical, and was reportedly a bit miffed that Gonsalves got all the press for this gig.)

The irony of the whole thing is that Gonsalves was normally a subtle, quirky and meditative player, not given to the kind of large-scale showboating that he does here, and for the rest of his career after this concert he used to resent the way that Ellington was always getting to him to stand up and play honking blues choruses every time the band played 'Diminuendo/Crescendo in Blue'!

A fantastically restored document of a great performance. Live music doesn't get much more live than this.
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on 18 April 2001
I've been listening to the original Newport album regularly since the mid eigties. I am not a jazz fan but I love Duke Ellington. This cd version is better quality and the stereo is very effective. Although there are extra tracks the best ones remain those that where on the original. Paul Gonsalves' solo on diminuendo and crescendo in blue of course needs no introduction. He was apparently off mike in the original. This recording however brings him to the fore apparently using recently found tapes recorded for the V.O.A.. This is worth the price of the album alone! The only odd thing is that the crowd noises, which always make the hair on the back of my neck stand up in the original, are ironically quieter on this version.Overall brilliant! If you want a live jazz album that sounds mor like a rock concert, get this one!
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on 25 June 2009
By the time The Duke came to Newport in 1956 with his band, his place among music's elite of the day was already assured. It may be that this recording made him a sure-fire member of every Hall of Fame for which he was eligible.

It took well over 40 years for the public at large to hear the actual concert, due to initial reluctance from Columbia to release the recordings made at Newport. However, this fabulous re-issue (including the studio "concert" which was released in '56) has thankfully given us the opportunity to hear the audience's real reaction to the magic that unfolded before their eyes and ears.

The legacy of the concert rightly rests on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" and Paul Gonsalves' fantastic, lengthy sax solo. But to write this album off as a one trick pony is to miss the point. The ability of soloists and rhythm sections on standards and new songs is astounding. The fact remains that the musicians hold the audience and today's listener in raptures, even before Gonsalves steps up, and this feeling is carried throughout.

Ellington's judgment of the mood of the crowd and choice of song mark him out as a master, and this is an album that no-one should be without.
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on 17 February 2005
'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'.
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on 16 July 2016
I am a HUGE fan of Duke,but in my opinion,important as this was to the future of the band,it's hardly his best.The live nature becomes,for me,a little fatiguiging over repeatedly listening.Announcements,etc,which may be programmed out,of course.I always preferred the single disc version,to be truthful.Which is buried in here.Don't let me put you off,it's my feeling I express,and no collection should be without this.Although I play it less than many,many other Ducal discs.
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on 5 February 2009
What a fabulous CD. This historical performance by the Ellington band re-launched his popularity after a few somewhat barren years. With a line-up including Johnny Hodges on alto, Cat Anderson and Clark Terry on trumpet and Sam Woodyard on drums you have a stellar band of players doing their thing. And, of course, as any jazz scholar worth his salt will tell you, it has THAT tenor solo.
What really adds to this double CD is all the extras. Music-wise, you get the full evening and late evening sets AND the studio tracks recorded (and in some cases used)two days later. The fantastic sleeve notes are perhaps the best I've ever read, giving you a complete run-down of the entire event and the reasons behind the studio performance done a couple of days afterwards, as well as naming the tracks actually used on the original LP - not all live at Newport then!
But the key to the performance was of course Paul Gonsalves tenor solo on Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue. It was this iconic solo that turned a good performance into an absolute stormer - you can hear the band and audience responding as the solo goes on, the excitement building throughout the 27 (yes, 27!)choruses. The audience erupts at the end and in the subsequent numbers, the band's playing is at a whole new level.
So, any quibbles? For my ears, the saxes sound a little dated but what do I know?
This CD should be in every big band lovers collection.
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What a tremendous recording - shiney and bright like this 1956 classic concert was recorded yesterday. And what a concert. Absolutely scintillating. Go striaght to the 'A Train' and turn up the volume as high as you dare: the Duke lures you in with a typically lively classic jazz piano intro, and then at last you get the 'hit' of the full orchestra with that absolutely beautiful theme; and if thats not enough, in comes a sublime trumpet across the top to take you through. with everything at full yet beautifully controlled throttle. Pure Pleaure. And you get the entire set here - just soak up the entire concert and understand how vital, exciting and wonderfuk Jazz of this vintage reallly was.
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on 18 May 2015
A quite amazing live performance which is tight as a tick on a donkey. The quality of the sound on this CD is to my addled mind remarkable (thanks to the re-mixers). The recording absolutely captures the "being there" feeling 50+ years later. Not my first choice of jazz music but some things defy time and space. I think that (a big think) a lot of later even Avant garde and later genres will have their roots in Duke Ellington's music. Sir Duke we can but learn. Peace and respect to you
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on 6 August 2011
I knew this was a classic recording of a live concert and wanted to buy a copy. My problem was there were 4 or 5 versions available on Amazon, all with identical covers but differently priced. Nothing on the Amazon notes explained the differences between them. In the end I bought the most expensive version. What I got was the "full" concert with all the introductions and conversations between numbers, some of which are extensive. If I'd known what the differences were I'd have opted for the music only version because that's what I wanted.
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on 2 June 2001
This record is not in itself one of Ellington's best. It merits a place in this list for its historical importance: it documents the first extended live saxophone solo. There is a broad consensus now that it was unplanned. Indeed, it seems that the climax of the evening had been reserved for Johnny Hodges on "Jeep's Blues".
Paul Gonsalves was then Duke's principal tenor, though as a saxophone voice, Johnny Hodges' alto was far more distinctive and admired. The circumstances appear to have led to Gonsalves' protagonism on this occasion. He played a full 27 choruses as if he were reading from a score. Some claim that a woman dancing on stage propelled him and the band to do this, others that the veteran drummer Jo Jones was in the wings egging him on.
Either way, this raucous frenzy was entirely unexpected, and became the highlight of that year's Newport Festival, thus paving the way for the exuberant live saxophone solos of the 1960s and 70s. (It seems that Charlie Christian was known to solo for long stretches in the 30s, even with Benny Goodman, but no single solo like this one had ever, until that day, received so much attention).
Strangely, the record itself documents only some of that evening's music, and in the wrong order. For years the material was only available in this form, and now there is another volume circulating containing the rest of the music, but it's nowhere near as interesting. The solo is on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue".
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