On Monday July 9 1956, Newport and the jazz world woke up to get to grasp what had happened at the Newport Jazz Festival on the Saturday night before.
It dominated the front page of the Newport Daily News, which focused on two issues: “Future of the Jazz Festival Here Marked By Many Ifs” and “Ellington Brings Festival To Rip-Roaring Windup”.
The first one, which was the headline story, focused on the concern of the local community following the riot-like situation at the end of Ellington’s performance on Saturday night. Louis Lorillard was quoted expressing concerns about the possibility to continue with the Festival.
The second one had in a sense the same theme. It didn’t really get into what Ellington had performed but the crowds reaction and behavior. “Orderly madness reigned as the midnight hour passed at Freebody with Ellington and his big band scoring a smash hit. While Paul Gonsalves was wailing away on a long blues number, the audience let loose with pent-up emotions.”
And perhaps this was the main story. A big band of the past had suddenly managed to get an audience carried away with what is was playing in the same way as the rock & roll artists did it. Ellington had got young people to feel the power of jazz.
And as said at the end of this video featuring an interview with George Wein, Ellington was back in demand.
This video with a short interview with George Wein summarizes some of the recurrent elements in the commentaries immediately after the festival and later.
Claes Dahlgren, the Swedish jazz journalist (amongst other things) covered Ellington’s appearance in more detail than the American newspapers in his report to the Swedish jazz magazine Orkesterjournalen.
“För kvällen var Duke Ellingtons orkester i verklig högform. Bandet spelade med betvingande “drive” och spelglädjen stod högt i taket.” Han var dock ganska ljum när det gällde Newport Suite, som Dahlgren tyckte var “några nya swingnummer utan inbördes sammanhan”. Han rapporterade naturligtvis också om “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” och de starka publikreaktionerna. Men Dahlgren tyckte inte att det betydde att festivalen hade urartat utan det var en logisk och lyckad avslutning. “Med den rytmiska upphetsningen fick man utlopp för all jazz man assimilerat under festivalen.” IN ENGLISH
The comments of Down Beat will follow in a couple of days.