Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
|"Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue"|
|Written by||Duke Ellington|
|Original artist||Duke Ellington|
"Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" is a big band jazz composition written in 1937 by Duke Ellington. In its early form, the two individual pieces, "Diminuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue," were recorded on opposite sides of a 78 rpm record.
Performances before 1956
In early performances, "Crescendo" was played before "Diminuendo." It was played at the 1938 Randall's Island concert with Ellington playing the interlude on piano. During the mid-1940s, Ellington tried all sorts of pieces between these tunes, particularly in a series of broadcasts he made for the Treasury Department in 1945 and 1946. There are issued recordings of him playing "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)", "Carnegie Blues", "Rocks in My Bed" and "Transblucency" between these two pieces. The last piece was specifically composed as a wordless vocal for Kay Davis. Later that decade, Duke once again tried a piano solo between them.
The first known instance of Paul Gonsalves taking the solo between these pieces occurred on June 30, 1951 at Birdland. During the piano break after "Diminuendo," Gonsalves leaned over to Duke and asked if he could get a piece of the action. What followed was a driving, barnstorming solo that whipped the audience into a frenzy, with people crying out and jumping on their chairs. The solo lasted 26 choruses, one shorter than the solo he would play at Newport 1956. There are several other issued recordings of Gonsalves doing this before 1956. 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.
1956 Newport Jazz Festival
There are no known recordings of Ellington playing the piece from March 30, 1953 until the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. In April 1956, there is evidence it was played in Durham, North Carolina, but no recordings.
At the historic 1956 Newport Festival, Duke told Gonsalves to blow as long as he wanted during the interlude, which Ellington later called "The Wailing Interval" or "Blow By Blow." In what has since become jazz folklore, Gonsalves almost created a riot as he played a tenor sax solo for 27 choruses that stirred up the normally staid crowd into a frenzy. A striking platinum blonde woman in a black evening dress, named Elaine Anderson, jumped from her box seat and started dancing. This helped serve as a catalyst for the crowd frenzy that grew as Gonsalves continued his forceful, energetic solo. In later performances, Gonsalves played as many as 60 choruses.
This song, along with the other performances at the festival by Ellington's band, were released as a live recording which helped revive Ellington's flagging career. Because of poor performance, "The Newport Jazz Festival Suite" and "Jeep's Blues" were rerecorded on July 9, 1956, in Columbia's New York studio. However, on every issue of Ellington at Newport, "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" is from the Newport stage, with varying sound quality.
There is a later recording of "Diminuendo In Blue/Blow by Blow" on the album Ella and Duke at the Cote D'Azur, recorded live in Juan-les-Pins on the French Riviera between June 26 and July 29, 1966, for Verve Records. Paul Gonsalves is featured on the "Blow by Blow" section.
- Crawford, Richard (2000). The American Musical Landscape: The Business of Musicianship from Billings to Gershwin. University of California Press. pp. 199–200. ISBN 0-520-22482-5.
- Morton, John Fass, Backstory in Blue, pp. 159-71, ISBN 978-0-8135-4282-9
- Bradbury, David (2005). Duke Ellington. Haus Publishing. pp. 81–84. ISBN 1-904341-66-7.
- "Turn Up That Noise", review of Ellington At Newport 1956 (Complete) by Gene Hyde, June 7, 1999. Retrieved October 2, 2006.
- Massagli, Luciano and Volonte, Giovanni. The New Desor: Duke Ellington's Story on Records, Parts One and Two, 1999, Milan, Italy.
- Morton, John Fass, Backstory in Blue: Ellington at Newport '56, 2008, Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-4282-9