Nightman Listens To – Duke Ellington At Newport (Top 1000 Albums Series)

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Greetings, Glancers. We’re back once again to treat our ears and inferior minds with music to make us better people. Having said that, I immediately don’t have a good feeling about this one; it’s jazz, and jazz and me go together like Israel and Palestine. What can I say, I’m just not a fan of the brass.

What Do I Know About Duke Ellington: He was (is?) a Jazz musician

What Do I Know About Live At Newport: It’s a live show? At Newport?

Well, that was quick. Before I hit play, I will say that as I was typing this I saw that there is the original recording and a 1999 remaster clocking in at over 2 hours. I… I think I’ll stick with the original for now, thanks. There’s only five tracks, which probably means they’re all ten minutes long. Yippee!

‘Festival Junction’ opens with clapping and a very polite and unnecessary introduction. More clapping. A new thing. Tom And Jerry. Smooth. Fast and uppy downy. Mad skills. Piano. More. Drums. There’s the beat. More claps. Here we go, cats. I can imagine both weird 50s dancing and weird 50s hoodlums tipping their caps. In sync. Sounds like they’re having fun. It’s not annoying me in any way, but it’s just background noise for me. I’m sure if I’d been there I may have been swept up in the live atmosphere. it sounds like twelve different TV gameshow themes being played at the same time. Some squeals now. Those high notes do nothing for me, sir, but the crowd seem to be creaming all over them.

‘Blues To Be There’ starts with another spoken intro. Are all these new or improvised pieces that no-one has heard before, so they need to walk them in with words? Or was that just the style of the time? Slow, bluesy piano. Cymbals. Brass. It, and most jazz, still makes me think of Tom And Jerry, and I don’t think that’ll ever change. Halloween moment. Again it’s fine for me to have in the background, but I’m not a fan of music for background purposes. Who keeps shouting ‘yeah’? More twiddly now. Clapping. Oh, wait, not over yet. I wonder if anyone is going to move into the house across the road. It’s been empty for a year, and the sold sign has been up for about three weeks now. Actually, the sold sign split in half thanks to the wind the other night. It’s Friday January 27th as I write this, people usually move in on Fridays, right? More clapping. No, still going. People still write and listen to and release jazz, right? Young cubs I mean. It’s not about to die out. Every time I hear a car engine pausing outside I think it’s going to be someone new moving in over the road. End.

Newport Up‘ sees another introduction, man these hip cats sound so square. Fast, bouncy, skirts swirling, feet kicking. This one builds a frantic pace and has plenty of solo moments backed by exuberant backing blasts. Sorry guys, but again by non-jazzy ears are looking out for hooks rather than freestyle, so I can’t be the most objective about this. I like it, sure – it isn’t annoying and I appreciate the speed and skill of playing. But technical artistry is one thing, crafting memorable music that I can recall at a moment’s notice is another. Now it sounds like Archer. 

Jeep’s Blues‘ is immediately sex music. Tom And Jerry sex music that is – you know, one of those moments when the girl cat comes in and turns her eyelashes into a beckoning finger. It also sounds quite a bit like The Pink Panther in places. Yes, 99% of jazz music I know comes from cartoons – that’s why I’m listening to this – to increase my knowledge and better myself. What exactly are you doing? Yeah exactly, so shut up. It ambles and rambles on, nothing to see or hear here I’m afraid.

Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue‘ is apparently two tracks merged together for this live outing. Piano and percussion. Then crazy horns. So this is ticking along nicely, I can’t really differentiate it from any of the previous tracks, probably because I’ve already forgotten them. It’s softer now, someone is clapping their hands, and someone keeps yelling. The shouting is quite annoying because I’ve no idea why he’s doing it. Is this good? Is that why? The crowd is damn well into though, maybe he’s just stoking the fire. Again, great skills on display, but the music isn’t my sort of thing and I’ve never been able to stand too much brass. That beat just keeps going on, this guy keeps playing, and the crowd is getting louder. It’s funny as he seems to be playing whatever the hell he likes. But again, it’s minutes and minutes of what my philistine ears determine to be the same few notes. Obviously it’s not that, but that’s how it seems. How hasn’t this guy fainted yet? Now the pianist is doing weird shit. Must be his turn now. Now they’re all at it. It still sounds like gameshows and cartoons and Dick Van Dyke movies. I’ll admit my foot got tapping in literally the final minute, and those final screeching notes are horrific and brilliant, but it’s over now and I can’t say I’ll ever listen to it again. Someone’s talking now. End.

What Did I Learn: I still don’t like jazz. Or ‘get’ jazz. Whatever. This is fine but doesn’t sounds any different from most other jazz I’ve heard. All I can say is thank God they invented the guitar and the amp and all the rest.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, it sure as hell wouldn’t appear in mine. But presumably this was a landmark for jazz, or live albums, or a combination of both. I’d love to see the crowd as it sounds like they are losing their minds. Again, I don’t really have any frame of reference to compare this with. Show me some bad jazz and let me see how it makes me feel, and then I’ll listen to this again to see if it’s any different. That’s always a good marker for getting into a genre you’re not familiar with. Show them a turd, then show them a diamond. As I have no clue what I’m talking about, this gets a 2 for maybe as I simply can’t give it a definite yes because I didn’t really like it, and I can’t give it a no because people who know better would throttle me. With their feeble jazz hands.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 460/1000

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