One of the focuses of the DESS’ website this month has been the Newport Jazz Festival 1956 (articles July 3, 7, 8, 11).
Willie Cook was one of the members of the band and he actually saved the first part of Ellington’s appearance at Newport. He was on stage when others like Ray Nance were missing so Ellington could call on him to play “Tea for Two”. Why Ellington chose this tune is a little bit of a mystery. Cook played it very infrequently with the band.
In 1995, Göran Wallén made an extensive interview with Cook (published in the DESS’ Bulletin 1995:3 where he also spoke about Newport 1956 and this is what he said.
“The concert was scheduled for 11 p.m. But it got delayed 1 hour and a half and meanwhile the band was sitting in the bar 500 meters from the stage. So when the band was supposed to start playing there was only 7 members in place. So Duke told me to play a solo number – Tea for Two. Unfortunately, it is not released on record. The reason that total hysteria broke out was that the band was in really good shape and that a blond woman started to dance in front of the stage during Paul Gonsalves’ solo. It is not really likely that Jo Jones was marking the rhythm with a newspaper backstage since Jo Jones and Sam Woodyard were not the best of friends.”