Paul Gonsalves

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Paul Gonsalves
Birth name Paul Gonsalves
Born (1920-07-12)July 12, 1920
Origin Brockton, Massachusetts, US
Died May 15, 1974(1974-05-15) (aged 53)
London, England
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician – Woodwinds
Instruments Tenor Saxophone
Years active 1938–1974
Labels RCA Victor
Impulse Records
Riviera Records
Black Lion Records
Associated acts Phil Edmonds,
Sabby Lewis Orchestra,
Count Basie,
Dizzy Gillespie,
Duke Ellington

Paul Gonsalves ((1920-07-12)July 12, 1920 – May 15, 1974(1974-05-15)) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist[1] best known for his association with Duke Ellington. At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves played a 27-chorus solo in the middle of Ellington's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue",[2] a performance credited with revitalizing Ellington's waning career in the 1950s.[3]


Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, to Cape Verdean parents, Gonsalves' first instrument was the guitar, and as a child he was regularly asked to play Cape Verdean folk songs for his family. He grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and played as a member of the Sabby Lewis Orchestra. His first professional engagement in Boston was with the same group on tenor saxophone, in which he played before and after his military service during World War II.[4] Before joining Duke Ellington's orchestra in 1950, he had also played in big bands led by Count Basie (1947–1949) and Dizzy Gillespie (1949–1950).

At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves' solo in Ellington's song "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" went through 27 choruses; the publicity from this performance is credited with reviving Ellington's career.[5] The performance is captured on the album Ellington at Newport. Gonsalves was a featured soloist in numerous Ellingtonian settings. He received the nickname "The Strolling Violins" from Ellington for playing solos while walking through the crowd.[6]

Gonsalves died in London a few days before Duke Ellington's death, after a lifetime of addiction to alcohol and narcotics.[7] Mercer Ellington refused to tell Duke of the passing of Gonsalves, fearing the shock might further accelerate his father's decline. Ellington and Gonsalves, along with trombonist Tyree Glenn, lay side-by-side in the same New York funeral home for a period of time.[8]

Gonsalves is buried at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York


As leader/co-leader

With Duke Ellington

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

With John Lewis

With Billy Taylor

With Clark Terry

With Jimmy Woode


  1. "Paul Gonsalves",
  2. Allmusic biography
  3. Larson, Thomas E. The History and Tradition of Jazz, p. 106. Google Books.
  4. Carr, Ian and Digby Fairweather, Brian PriestleyThe Rough Guide to Jazz. Google Books.
  5. Martin, Henry and Keith Waters Jazz: the first 100 years, Cengage Learning, p. 150. Google Books.
  6. "Paul Gonsalves, Ellington band saxophonist," May 18, 1974. St. Petersburg Times
  7. Downbeat magazine, March 16, 1961, page 11, reports "Ellingtonians arrested in Vegas" "Ray Nance, Willie Cook. Andrew (Fats) Ford as well as Paul Gonsalves...the sheriff's squad seized...heroin plus hypodermic needles, eye droppers and other paraphernalia of the narcotic user"
  8. Hasse, John Edward Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, Da Capo Press, p. 385. Google Books.

External links