Paul Gonsalves

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Paul Gonsalves
Background information
Born(1920-07-12)July 12, 1920
Brockton, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMay 15, 1974(1974-05-15) (aged 53)
London, England
GenresJazz, swing, bebop
Instrument(s)Tenor saxophone
Years active1938–1974
LabelsRCA Victor, Impulse!, Riviera, Black Lion

Paul Gonsalves ((1920-07-12)July 12, 1920 – (1974-05-15)May 15, 1974) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist[1] best known for his association with Duke Ellington. At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves played a 27-chorus solo in the middle of Ellington's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue,"[2] a performance credited with revitalizing Ellington's waning career in the 1950s.[3]


Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, to Cape Verdean parents, Gonsalves' first instrument was the guitar, and as a child he was regularly asked to play Cape Verdean folk songs for his family. He grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and played as a member of the Sabby Lewis Orchestra.[4] His first professional engagement in Boston was with the same group on tenor saxophone, in which he played before and after his military service during World War II.[5] He also played with fellow Cape Verdean Americans in Phil Edmund's band in the 1940s.[6] Before joining Duke Ellington's orchestra in 1950, he also played in big bands led by Count Basie (1947–1949) and Dizzy Gillespie (1949–1950).[4]

At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves' solo in Ellington's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" went through 27 choruses; the publicity from this performance is credited with reviving Ellington's career.[4][7] The performance is captured on the album Ellington at Newport. Gonsalves was a featured soloist in numerous Ellingtonian settings.[4] He received the nickname "The Strolling Violins" from Ellington for playing solos while walking through the crowd.[8]

Gonsalves died in London ten days before Duke Ellington's death, after a lifetime of addiction to alcohol and narcotics.[4][9] Mercer Ellington refused to tell Duke of the passing of Gonsalves, fearing the shock might further accelerate his father's decline. Ellington and Gonsalves, along with trombonist Tyree Glenn, lay side by side in the same New York funeral home for a period of time.[10]

Gonsalves is buried at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.


As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Duke Ellington

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

With Johnny Hodges

With John Lewis

With Billy Taylor

With Clark Terry

With Jimmy Woode

With Joya Sherrill


  1. ^ "Paul Gonsalves", Archived September 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Allmusic biography
  3. ^ Larson, Thomas E. The History and Tradition of Jazz, p. 106. Google Books.
  4. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 994. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  5. ^ Carr, Ian and Digby Fairweather, Brian PriestleyThe Rough Guide to Jazz. Google Books.
  6. ^ Morton, John Fass (2008). Backstory in Blue: Ellington at Newport '56. Rutgers University Press. pp. 137, 140. ISBN 978-0-8135-4282-9.
  7. ^ Martin, Henry and Keith Waters Jazz: the first 100 years, Cengage Learning, p. 150. Google Books.
  8. ^ "Paul Gonsalves, Ellington band saxophonist," May 18, 1974. St. Petersburg Times
  9. ^ Downbeat magazine, March 16, 1961, page 11, reports "Ellingtonians arrested in Vegas" "Ray Nance, Willie Cook. Andrew (Fats) Ford as well as Paul Gonsalves...the sheriff's squad seized...heroin plus hypodermic needles, eye droppers and other paraphernalia of the narcotic user"
  10. ^ Hasse, John Edward Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, Da Capo Press, p. 385. Google Books.

External links[edit]