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Paul Gonsalves

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Paul Gonsalves (July 12, 1920, Brockton, Massachusetts - May 15, 1974, London, England), an American jazz tenor saxophonist, was considered one of the best and most tasteful players on his instrument. But no review of his musicianship is ever left untouched by the performance that made his name in the first place—-the near-riot he caused at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, with an arresting, 27-chorus solo, in the middle of Duke Ellington’s performance of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”.

Linking two of Ellington’s late-1930s blues compositions (“Diminuendo in Blue,” “Crescendo in Blue”), the Gonsalves performance had been seeded a few years earlier, after Ellington had shelved his first idea for conjoining the two songs, a wordless-vocal interlude called “Transblucency.” In fact the Paul Gonsalves “Wailing Interval” seems to have been performed first at Birdland in New York City, on June 30, 1951. As with Newport 1956, there are 27 or 28 choruses of Paul Gonsalves’ solo. Furthermore it could be argued that the Birdland performance far surpasses that of Newport 1956 as an example of Gonsalves’ power and inventiveness as a blues soloist. This is despite the fact after 5 or 6 choruses Gonsalves becomes out of sync with the rhythm section by a whole bar during an attempt at an overly complicated rhythm pattern in his improvising. It is clear from the recording that nobody notices this until the last few choruses of this mammoth solo!

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