excerpt from 'Southbank Centre Archive' (371 words)

excerpt from 'Southbank Centre Archive' (371 words)

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Southbank Centre Archive

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Ellington ecstasy 5 October 1958. I was sixteen years old, and a friend and I had been given dispensation from my very liberal and understanding boarding school to attend Duke Ellington and his Orchestra giving their first concert in Britain since the War (the restrictions on the exchange of jazz musicians had prevented earlier visits). For us, the man was (and still is) a god, the genius of all jazz. Not only that, but the band was at its very peak, with Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonzalves, Russell Procope, Harry Carney,Cat Anderson, - the whole band, in fact, made up of the very best jazz musicians in their prime. Of course, the atmosphere in the packed Festival Hall was electric. Each number introduced in Ellington's distinctive mellow tones was known by the audience and greeted with rapture. I was particularly impressed by Hodges, my favourite alto sax player, who played rocking, swinging solos, with the band behind him swaying and stomping, yet except for his flying fingers he didn't move any muscles at all. He stood at the front of the stage motionless, looking around the audience with his hooded eyes while he was playing as if he were counting the heads. In those days, LCC (London County Council) regulations meant that concerts had to finish punctually at 10.30. At about 10.15, John Dankworth came onto the stage to pay the Duke some compliments and give him some awards. With just a few minutes to go before having to end the concert, The Duke thanked us all, and said he loved us madly, that in fact the whole band loved us madly, of course he knew the concert must end, but by way of thanks they would play a short encore...."Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue". The audience erupted, leaped to their feet, knowing that they were in for a piece that lasted about twenty minutes, that contained an electrifying 27 chorus solo by the tenor Paul Gonzalves, made famous at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1956, where the crowd had gone wild. We had all heard the recording, and the aisles of the Festival Hall were packed with dancing, very happy, fans who would never, ever, forget one of the greatest concerts in British jazz history. 

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excerpt from 'Southbank Centre Archive' (371 words)


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