George Avakian on the "wrong microphone" incident
NOW, A JAZZ MOMENT...
Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
CD: Ellington At Newport 1956
Originally released 1956 Sony Music Entertainment
(applause crossfaded onto Duke intro for obvious LIVE effect)
THIS RECORDING OF THE DUKE ELLINGTON ORCHESTRA AT THE 1956 NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE MOST EXCEPTIONAL LIVE RECORDINGS IN JAZZ HISTORY. IT'S THE PRODUCT OF LEGENDARY PRODUCER, AND NEA JAZZ MASTER, GEORGE AVAKIAN. HE RECALLS LISTENING TO ELLINGTON WHILE HE PLANNED THE SET...
George Avakian: He told the musicians, "Let's do Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue." And everybody kind of smiled and laughed and so forth, except Paul Gonsalves, who was standing next to Duke. He said, "Gee, I don't know that one." And everyone laughed because, as Duke said, "Paul, that's the blues, you know, I bring you on, you blow a solo, I take you out, we change keys and we're out. You've done it before." Now Gonsalves was a junkie and he was pretty much I think high during that time. But he was a professional. He came through beautifully except for one thing. He blew into the wrong microphone.
IN ORDER TO GET THE BEST POSSIBLE SOUND, AVAKIAN CAREFULLY INSTRUCTED EACH SOLOIST TO PLAY INTO THE MICROPHONE THAT HAD A WHITE HANDKERCHIEF CONSPICUOUSLY TIED TO IT.
And everybody did that except Gonsalves who simply went up there, screwed his eyes tight shut and began blowing that fantastic solo ? I think it was 28 choruses or something like that. The first few bars were appalling because he was buried by the band. Ellington yelled at him and you can hear him yelling, but Paul never paid any attention.
MUSIC:up for a chorus
ALTHOUGH IT WAS COMMON PRACTICE TO RE-RECORD SEGMENTS IN A STUDIO TO THEN EDIT BACK INTO THE LIVE RECORDING, AVAKIAN KNEW THAT PERFORMANCE WOULD NEVER BE DUPLICATED. SO HE SENT THE TAPES TO ELLINGTON AS THEY WERE -- AND HOPED FOR THE BEST.