Tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves will be remembered by many for his riotous 27 choruses on the Newport recording of "Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue." As with other prime Ellington soloists like Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney, Gonsalves was given ample room to display his wares live and in the studio. Duke's faith in Gonsalves was certainly made clear at Newport and is proven again on this very enjoyable showcase. Unbeknownst to Gonsalves, though, Ellington planned the session as a vehicle for his soloist's considerable skills. Recorded in May of 1962, the eight-song set was cut in about four hours. The resulting album has both an informal feel and the qualities of a laboriously planned recording. (Ellington's band, of course, was so tight on the boss's catalog that it always sounded rehearsed.) Gonsalves is impressive throughout, reeling off a keen mix of big-band blowing and harmonically sophisticated solos reminiscent of Don Byas' own varied approach to the tenor. In addition to stretching out on warhorses like "C Jam Blues" and "Take the 'A' Train," Gonsalves also offers up some snaky and vaporous lines on more involved Ellington cuts like "Caravan" and "Paris Blues." Backed by band regulars like Hodges, trumpeter Cat Anderson, trombonist Lawrence Brown, and clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton, among many others, Gonsalves turns this one-off session into one of the more enjoyable titles in Ellington's catalog.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook