Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” has some great riffs, innovative orchestration, and advanced harmony, especially considering he wrote it in the mid 1930’s. He didn’t know he was breaking the rules because there weren’t any rules.
Download PDF of the annotated score from class:
Check out these videos of Wynton and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra from 2000-something, and of Duke Ellington band live from The Netherlands in 1958. The original 1937 recording was actually performed as two pieces, “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue”, recorded on two sides of a 78 RPM record. Later performances feature more “modern” articulation choices, and what was a brief piano interlude bridging the two halves on the original record morphed into an extended tenor solo. The Ellington Band’s performance of “Dim and Cresc” in 1956 at the Newport Jazz Festival and specifically Paul Gonsolvas’ monstrous tenor solo in the “wailing interval” is credited by some for the revitalization of Duke’s career, after a difficult time in the post-war era when the big bands waned. There is a live album from that 1956 Newport appearance, and a remastered release from 1999.