I recently published here a post about the 1956 collaboration between Duke Ellington and Rosemary Clooney that resulted in the excellent Columbia album Blue Rose. About 14 years later, in August and September of 1970, two of the musicians that were a part of the Ellington band during those sessions with Clooney, Paul Gonsalves and Ray Nance, came together in New York City for the two dates that produced the album Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin', which was fortunately reissued on CD by the Black Lion label in 1990, though that release isn't always easy to find. Born in Chicago in 1913, Nance learned to play the piano and the violin before taking up the trumpet, as he himself told critic Stanley Dance, because "I wanted to hear myself on a louder instrument in a way I couldn't do with the violin in the orchestra." After working with Earl Hines and Horace Henderson, Nance joined Ellington in 1940 and stayed until the 1960s, distinguishing himself as a master of the growling trumpet, but also as a violinist and a Louis Armstrong-influenced singer. Gonsalves, who was born in Boston in 1920 and whose parents came originally from the islands of Cape Verde, was about seven years younger than Nance and didn't become an Ellingtonian until 1950, although by then he'd already made a name for himself via his work with orchestras led by Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. The warmth of his tone on the tenor saxophone was undoubtedly inspired by Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, but he developed a recognizable style that can be heard at its very best on an epic solo he took during Ellington's version of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.
|The multitalented Ray Nance|