In the 50 year span of his career Duke Ellington has composed well over 3,000 pieces of musical composition ranging from the blues, jazz, classical and other forms of contemporary music.
The man was a veritable genius when it came to composition and is famous for elevating jazz music to the heights of popularity that placed on par with other forms of music. None is this more evident that in the composition “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”, where the composition talents of Ellington bring forth a lively and exciting jazz beat that one cannot help but dance or snap your fingers to.
It is actually to my great pleasure that I begin a slight evaluation of the 1958 concert in Concertgebouw, Amsterdam where this song was played in order to give my own personal insights on how the tempo, timbre and beat combine into a truly exquisite piece for the years.
Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue – Examination
Almost immediately listeners are assailed with a fast tempo to the song that alternates between Vivace and Allegro; the sweet sound of trumpets and saxophones lends the song a smooth timbre with an upbeat progression to the music which follows through a gradual decrescendo into a wonderfully soft sax and strumming combination that was a delight to the ears.
In fact the initial few minutes of the song itself can be divided into a lively Vivace which slowly tapers off into a moderate allegretto which seems to be the impetus needed to introduce the breathtaking solo of Gonzalez.
Words fail to describe the superb playing of Gonzalez during his sax solo, it consisted of Vivace combined with a smooth consonance that when combined with the background orchestra music and the slight clapping by the band gives the solo a striking feel especially when taking into consideration the duration of notes being struck by Gonzalez where you can practically see the veins bulging out of his head due to the sheer difficulty of the solo piece.
In terms of the overall loudness of the song I would have to say that it ranges between mezzoforte and forte yet it doesn’t come off as overly loud or too striking rather the smooth tones of jazz music that practically ooze a comforting melody makes the loudness justifiably appropriate for the piece at hand.
Overall the piece has a chord progression that is both striking and smooth that draws audiences into the song itself, it neither forces a person to listen nor does it necessitate the need to sit down to enjoy it or stand up and dance rather the song is somewhere in the middle where the homophony of the various instruments enables either a calm reflection or an excited action.
For me the music embodies the excitement of the 1950s when jazz just began to popularize itself, through musical notes it describes an age of musical discovery where a person can choose whatever path they want in life.
After listening to the song multiple times I would have to say that the composer and performer’s approach to the song was one of improvisation and a slightly “laissez faire” approach to playing. When watching the YouTube video I saw the players clapping, talking, and overall taking a relaxed rather than strict approach to playing the song.
This particular attitude is reflected in the song itself where it doesn’t force listeners to either dance or just listen but to do what they want. The song for me reflected both the mood of the composer and the improvisation adapted by Gonzalez to create what is truly a brilliant piece of jazz music.