Duke Ellington wrote and recorded Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue in 1937. The recording made on 20 Sept. that year was a swinging and bluesy performance, covering both sides of a 78 rpm record.
For some eight years after that, this composition remained conspicuously absent from the Ellington discographies, although it surely must have been played now and then during the orchestra’s seemingly endless touring schemes.
As a matter of fact, Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra took part in a now famous event in New York in 1938, the ”Carnival of Swing” outdoor festival at Randall’s Island where their performance of Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue, according to contemporary accounts, generated a ”riotous reaction”. Unfortunately no recording of this specific event seems to have survived.
In 1945, however, it was brought back into the band book again. The obvious success at Randall’s Island, probably gave Ellington the encouragement to experiment a little with the composition, and he now tries various ideas on how to bridge the two main parts through an independent, but suitable tune.The first such attempt is to let Marie Ellington sing Rocks In My Bed, in a performance presented as Blues Cluster from 9 June, 1945 and the second, on 7 July, by inserting Carnegie Blues instead and naming it Trio In Blue. The next one (21 Sept) again uses Rocks In My Bed, but this time sung by Joya Sherrill and on 13 Oct. I Got It Bad is the integrating factor. These performances can be heard on The Duke Ellington Treasury Series. Then, for the Carnegie Hall Concert in January 4, 1946, Duke decided to include Transblucency (A Blue Fog You Can Almost See Through) a song that was probably composed for this purpose. It was sung by Kay Davis and was to remain the ”bridge” between the two compositions until the advent of Paul Gonsalves’ version in 1951.
In June 1951, during the orchestra’s stay at Birdland, Paul Gonsalves, a relative newcomer in the band, approached Duke and suggested he play a tenor solo between the main parts of the composition. This resulted in the first ”Wailing Interval” (26 choruses) that was put on record and this happy event took place 30 June 1951 in a CBS telecast. Listen! .
Parts of this telecast have been issued on LP (Stardust 202 and Jazz Anthol0gy JA 5209). Between now and Newport 56, there were a few performances according to this pattern, another early example is from the Pasadena concert in 1953, until that specific night of 7-8 July 1956, when the jazz world was nearly set on fire. After this this monumental public success, Diminuendo In Blue And Crescendo In Blue with the Wailing Interval was part of the standard repertoire until the very end.