Well, undertaking to list to 1001 Albums starting in the fifties meant that I was going to have to deal with jazz at some point. Never got it to be honest. Yeah, it’s the first half of the soundtrack to the 20th century making its way from music hall to Metallica. Yes, it’s the basis of blues, rock, R&B, soul, everything. But to me it sounds like hotel lobbies, Fast Show sketches and musical masturbation.
In fact, the first time I listened to this, I listened to the 1999 “Complete” Duke Ellington at Newport, a double CD’s worth of big band music that, while hardly bad, wasn’t for me. It was only then that I realised I was listening to a full-on extended bloat of an album, not the iconic original. Flip to the 1956 version, and what you’ve got is a nice concise snapshot of a man back in the spotlight after thirty years in the business, playing imaginative, astonishing trumpet jazz. And even a miserable jazz cynic like me couldn’t help enjoying the bluesy “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”, featuring a great big behemoth of a sax solo that stands out against the best of any genre.
Oh, and apparently the “Live at Newport” thing was a bit of a loose title. They all went into a studio the Monday morning after to re-record it all because the original tapes were knackered. Even the applause was stuck on afterwards.