On July 17, 1954 Impresario George Wein opened the gates to the first Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island and changed the face of jazz arena presentation for the second half of the Twentieth Century. He took what was essentially the concept of Jazz at the Philharmonic and moved it outdoors into a multi-day concert setting, attracting a wider and more diverse audience. The three volumes of retrospective material include recordings from the festival years of 1956-1976; the first volume covers '56-'60 only.
Wein was proud to report that in 1954, Eddie Condon and Lennie Tristano were performing on the same program and although in later years free jazz players like Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Roswell Rudd and the "New Thing at Newport" (Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler) were to perform, there is no hint of it in any of these compiled discs. The first three tracks are devoted to the performance of the Louis Armstrong All Stars and the Eddie Condon Group. Willie "The Lion" Smith renders a solo reading of "Echoe of Spring." The Newport All-Stars, consisting of a post-war swing front line of Ruby Braff and Bud Freeman with pianist Wein, Wendell Marshall and Roy Haynes.
What ensues are three interesting big band selections. First, Armstrong returns with the Newport International Jazz Band which included such players as Albert Mangelsdorff, George Gruntz and Gabor Szabo. On a lengthy "Sunny Side of the Street, a fiery tenor sax solo by Bernt Rosengren is the best moment. The Duke Ellington Orchestra's resurgence that year was largely due to his appearance at the 1956 Newport Festival and namely the landmark performance of Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue. One can almost sense the palpable excitement of the crowd (and the orchestra) during Paul Gonzalves' long tenor sax statement. Count Basie follows with his swinging version of "One O'Clock Jump," which reunited Lester Young plus guest Illinois Jacquet with the Band.
Volume One concludes with two unusual selections. Nowadays, the performance of Sting, etc. at a Jazz Festival wouldn't raise too many eyebrows, but in 1960 it surely would have. Bluesmeister Muddy Waters and his Band perform Willie Dixon's "Tiger In Your Tank," which is an identical riff to his "Got My Mojo Working," recorded for the first time at the Newport Folk Festival, days after this session. In a previously unreleased recording, Chuck Berry, then a very-hot rock 'n' roll singer, performs "Sweet Little Sixteen" or "Johnny B. Goode." If the folks at Columbia/Legacy could not decipher the difference between the two songs, it might reflect the "illegimate" status of rock music at that point. The performance is of his hit "Sweet Little Sixteen," but done at a shuffle tempo, making the lyrics more comprehensive and more of a toe-tapping performance than a guitar rave-up. Kenny Burrell provides the guitar backing and either Rudy Rutherford, Buddy Tate or Georgie Auld are heard on the break on alto sax.
There are other tracks from the late 1950s on Volume Two and Three, but other than appearances by the major names (Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ben Webster) there is little reference to the growing hard bop scene of the era. Another obvious omission was the Stan Kenton Orchestra. I understand that the voluminous recordings couldn't all be heard, but surely more of a balance could have been struck.
Track Listing: Tin Roof Blues, Mack the Knife, By An' Bye, Echoe of Spring, Just You Just Me, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue, One O'Clock Jump, Tiger in Your Tank, Sweet Little Sixteen or Johnny B. Goode.
Personnel: Tracks 1,2: Louis Armstrong,trumpet,vocal; Trummy Young,trombone; Edmund Hall, clarinet; Billy Kyle,piano; Dale Jones, bass; Barrett Deems,drums Track 3:Eddie Condon and his All Stars- Condon,guitar; Wild Bill Davison,cornet; Lou McGarity,trombone; Peanuts Hucko,clarinet; Bud Freeman,tenor sax; Gene Schroeder,piano; Jack Lesberg,bass; Cliff Leeman,drums Track 4:Willie "The Lion" Smith,piano Track 5:The Newport All-Stars:Ruby Braff,trumpet; Bud Freeman,tenor sax; George Wein,piano; Wendell Marshall,bass; Roy Haynes,drums Track 6: Louis Armstrong with the Newport International Jazz Band -Armstrong,trumpet,vocal; Palle Bolvig, Roger Guerin, Dusko Gojkovic, Jose Manuel Magalhaes,trumpet; Christian Kellens, Albert Mangelsdorff, Kurt Jamberg, Erich Keinshculster,trombone; Hans Salomen Wladimiro Ben Fabache, Andy Marsala,alto sax; Bernt Rosengren, Jan Wroblewski,tenor sax; Ronnie Ross,baritone sax; George Grunz,piano; Rudolph Jacobs,bass; Gabor Szabo,guitar; Gilberto Cuppini,drums; Marshall Brown,director
Track 7: Duke Ellington & His Orchestra-Cat Anderson,Willie Cook, Ray Nancy, Clark Terry,trumpet; Quentin Jackson,Britt Woodman, John Sanders,trombone; Johnny Hodges,Russell Procope,Paul Gonzalves,Jimmy Hamilton,Harry Carney,reeds; Ellington,piano;Jimmy Woode,bass;Sam Woodyard,drums Track 8: Count Basie & His Orchestra-Basie,piano; Wendell Culley,Joe Newman, Renuald Jones,trumpet; Henry Coker,Benny Powell,Bill Hughes,trombone; Marshall Royal,Bill Graham,mFrank Foster,Frank Wess,Charles Fowlkes,reeds; Freddie Green,guitar; Ed Jones,bass with guests Roy Eldridge,trumpet; Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet,tenor sax; Jo Jones,drums Track 8: Muddy Waters Band-Waters guitar,vocal; Pat Hare,guitar; James Cotton,harmonica; Otis Spann,piano; Andrew Stephenson,bass; Francey Clay,drums Track 10 Chuck Berry with the Newport Blues Band-Berry,guitar,vocal; Buck Clayton,trumpet; Jack Teagarden,trombone; Rudy Rutherford,Buddy Tate, Georgie Auld,tenor sax; Kenny Burrell,guitar; Ray Bryant,piano; Tommy Bryant,bass; Jo Jones,drums.