A few days ago, I don’t know why, I Googled “best live jazz albums.” “Ellington Live at Newport 1956” made the top of several lists. Having neither heard nor read anything about it, I listened to it en route to Tulsa this afternoon.
The backstory is that Ellington’s career was faltering when he and his band took the stage after a thunderstorm to close the night at Newport. The set starts respectably, if uninspired. Then, this. Listening today, it’s clear that this is where the show takes off, the crowd is jumping and dancing for joy, and in 14 minutes, Ellington’s career is revitalized. Reading about it tonight, the song is bolstered by a 27-chorus, tenor sax solo, mostly improvised, by Paul Gonsalves, who hadn’t played the piece in many years.
The next track on the album, at 44 seconds, describes it best: “Applause, Pandemonium.”