Paul Gonsalves, (July 12, 1920 – May 15, 1974) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist best known for his association with Duke Ellington. At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves played a 27-chorus solo in the middle of Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”. That performance is credited with revitalizing Ellington’s waning career in the 1950s. Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, to Cape Verdean parents, Gonsalves’ first instrument was the guitar, and as a child he was regularly asked to play Cape Verdean folk songs for his family. He grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts and played as a member of the Sabby Lewis Orchestra. His first professional engagement in Boston was with the same group on tenor saxophone, in which he played before and after his military service during World War II. Before joining Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1950, he had also played with the big bands of Count Basie (1947–1949) and Dizzy Gillespie (1949–1950). At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves’ solo in Ellington’s song “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” contained 27 choruses; the publicity from which is credited with reviving Ellington’s career. This performance is captured on the album Ellington at Newport. Gonsalves was a featured soloist in numerous Ellingtonian settings. He received the nickname “The Strolling Violins” from Ellington for playing solos while walking through the crowd. Gonsalves died in London a few days before Duke Ellington’s death. Mercer Ellington refused to tell Duke of the passing of Gonsalves, fearing the shock might further accelerate his father’s decline. Ellington and Gonsalves, along with trombonist Tyree Glenn, lay side-by-side in the same New York funeral home for a period of time.
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