All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Paul Gonsalves

Paul Gonsalves Paul Gonsalves

Although his reputation is often hung upon the mighty gallery-rousing performance he gave at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival with Duke Ellington, tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves was at heart an introspective balladeer. His true legacy is his recorded collection of love songs.

Paul Gonsalves was born on 12 July 1920, in Boston, Massachusetts, which is where he had his first professional engagement. He played tenor saxophone with the Sabby Lewis band for several years, a stretch split by military service during World War Two. In 1946, he left the Lewis band to join Count Basie for almost three years, was briefly with Dizzy Gillespie in 1949, and then joined Duke Ellington in 1950. He was to remain with Ellington for the rest of his life. In common with many other tenor players who aspired to play with Ellington, Gonsalves learned Ben Webster's famous 'Cottontail' solo note for note, but it was not long before his own distinctive style thrust aside imitation.

By the time of his sixth year with Ellington, Gonsalves had experienced the ups and downs of playing with a big band. Gonsalves was building a reputation as a consummate balladeer and also as a crowd pleaser thanks to Ellington's choice of him as the soloist to bridge the opening and closing sections of 'Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue'. He had already done this on some dance dates when Ellington called this number at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. It had been a mixed night; Ellington was irritated by his placing on the bill, the show was a long one and the audience was already drifting homewards, and some of the band had been more than usually tardy in returning to the stand after the interval. Whatever the truth behind the moment, the fact is that Ellington called this number, the band played the opening section, and then Gonsalves stepped forward and began to play. And he played and he played and he played. His storming, 27-chorus bridge dragged the audience back to its seats. The band had already been playing well and everyone was in marvelous form and enjoying the occasion. Now, stoked by Sam Woodyard's drumming and the leader's jabbing chords from the piano, they transcended all that had come before on that night and much of what had transpired in the quarter century of the band's existence. A legend was born.

Read more





Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins
Lester Young Lester Young
Stan Getz Stan Getz
saxophone, tenor
Johnny Hodges Johnny Hodges
saxophone, alto
Joe Lovano Joe Lovano
saxophone, tenor
Benny Golson Benny Golson
saxophone, tenor
Ben Webster Ben Webster
saxophone, tenor
Johnny Griffin Johnny Griffin
saxophone, tenor
Coleman Hawkins Coleman Hawkins
saxophone, tenor
Hank Mobley Hank Mobley
saxophone, tenor
Roy Eldridge Roy Eldridge
Benny Carter Benny Carter
saxophone, alto
Stanley Turrentine Stanley Turrentine
saxophone, tenor
Ike Quebec Ike Quebec
saxophone, tenor
James Moody James Moody
Gene Ammons Gene Ammons
saxophone, tenor

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.