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Duke Ellington in 1956 – July
Ellington’s Newport Festival concert finished well after midnight. When he and the band left the following morning, they were faced with a full set of road bookings.
“As it had been for decades, it was a nonstop summer …. Newport had been only one gig among others” (John Fass Morton Backstory in Blue – Ellington at Newport ’56).
However, it was a little bit different than previous summers. The summer music festivals had entered the scene in full strength and the core of Ellington’s appearances in July were at such festivals. They had large audiences so Ellington managed to reach out quite well in addition to the success at Newport. Several of them was also recorded in one way or the other or broadcasted.
Ellington played the key pieces from the Newport concert quite a lot, particularily “Newport Jazz Festival Suite”. Surprisingly, “Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue” was played less frequently.
After Newport Ellington and the band played at the Danceland Ocean Park in New London, Connecticut and then returned to New York.
Duke and Billy Strayhorn spent most of the morning of July 9 with George Avakian and his team in Columbia’s Studio D going over the tapes from Newport and in the afternoon the full orchestra joined them for the recording session, which was already agreed before the actual concert in Newport. The focus was “Newport Jazz Festival Suite” but also “Jeep’s Blues” was recorded. Fortunately, the initial idea to redo also “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” was skipped.
Amazingly, Ellington managed to squeeze two other events into his calendar on July 9. He participated in a panel with other prominent jazz colleagues and recorded a promotional short film for Time-Life.
The following day, the tour of New England and Canada started. The first stop was New Haven, Connecticut, where Ellington participated in the Bowls Pop together with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
The next major stop was the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts on July 15 and from there Ellington and the orchestra went to Ontario, Canada to perform at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario.
There they gave two concerts – July 18 and July 20. In between and after, Ellington performed in Burlington, Ontario and both concerts were broadcasted by CBC Radio.
Following this, Duke and the band returned to the U.S.A. to perform in Cleveland, Ohio with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra on July 25 after having given a concert in Buffalo, New York the day before.
The next major destination was Fairfield, Connecticut where Ellington and the orchestra appeared at the First Connecticut Jazz Festival on July 28. This was major event and Ellington shared the stage with Willie “The Lion” Smith, Chico Hamilton, Buck Clayton and others.
On July 29, they were back in New York and Ellington appeared on the Woolworth Hour playing a medley with the house band.
This post has been written using information from http://www.tdwaw.ca and http://www.ellingtonia.com – two absolutely invaluable sources of information on Ellington’s whereabouts and activities.