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.