This album is another case of a jazz classic that somehow I have avoided most of my life. I understand the importance of this performance to Duke Ellington’s career, but somehow I never picked up this album and have only heard a couple tunes randomly throughout the years. So I’ve taken some time the last couple of weeks to really dig into ELLINGTON at NEWPORT and here are some of my thoughts on the album.
The track listing is long and really captures the feeling of hearing this performance live at Newport. I love hearing the announcer speaking and Ellington briefly taking about certain pieces or soloists on given tunes. This gives the recording an added charm and personality that is lacking from many live albums. Just about every tune on here is gold, but “Pt. I- Festival Junction”, “Diminuendo in Blue”, and “Tulip or Turnip” stood out from the rest.
“Pt. I- Festival Junction” I love the introduction with just the lead melody and piano. The tune slowly builds and integrates the rest of the band. The solos here are spectacular and some of my favorite in the album. “Diminuendo in Blue” is known for the Paul Gonsalvez solo, making this a must listen to track ok the album. “Tulip or Turnip” is classic jazz. This tune is the kind of music most people think of when they think of jazz. Me not being a fan of big band music, or singers, this tune still resonated with me. Not much else to analyze, on paper this tune wasn’t set up for me to like, but I love it. Swings like hell.
A part of me is embarrassed that it’s taken me so long to listen to this album. A bigger part of me is happy I still have classics left to dig into. Despite being fully involved in my Jazz Studies for several years there are still many classic albums left for me to explore, and that exploration and mystery continues to drive my passion for this art form.