[Dixielandjazz] Gonsalves sleeping on the bandstand.

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun May 16 08:57:05 PDT 2010

On May 15, 2010, at 5:41 PM, Marek Boym wrote:

>> A Train was surely a tour de force for Strayhorn. To see Billy  
>> playing it
>> with Duke's Orchestra, go to:
>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tjc7mu9leYw
>> At the end listen to Duke's comments about him.  Apparently Ellington
>> thought Strayhorn composed some significant tunes on his own.  
>> <grin> Note
>> also during the performance, at about the 1 minute and 35 second  
>> mark, Paul
>> Gonsalves nodding out. <grin>. Not the first time he was caught on  
>> video
>> doing it.
> A British trombonist who subbed with the Ellington band, and later
> lead a youth band in the town of Holon (south of Tel-Aviv), used to
> tell the audience taht Gonsalves, often very drunk, used to doze off
> during performances.  The way that trombonist had it, that would
> prompt the Duke to call upon Gonsalves to solo.

Dear Marek:

I think that the British trombonist was being unfair, as well as  
stretching the truth  with that story. It needs to be corrected.

While Gonsalves suffered at various times from both drug and alcohol  
addiction, those vices usually prompted him to take a leave of absence  
from Duke's band. They were NOT the reason for Gonsalves nodding off  
during Ellington's band performances..

The truth is that Paul Gonsalves suffered from Narcolepsy, a disease  
that causes those who have it to fall asleep at virtually any time. So  
he would frequently fall asleep during performances. Contrary to the  
Briton's theory that Duke would call upon Gonsalves to solo more often  
when he was asleep, what usually happened is that the tenor man next  
to him covered the solo. See:


BTW: Dig Jimmy Hamilton's clarinet. He is the man who takes Paul's  
solo, while remaining seated, when the tenor solo spot comes up.

Fact is that no band leader, especially Ellington, would want a solo  
from a musician high on drugs or alcohol. Neither substance adds to  
one's ability to play coherently and usually, a performance is  
degraded badly by them, as opposed to performing sober.

Also, Danish jazz drummer Drummer Alex Riel has a clip on YouTube of  
Duke Ellington presenting him with the 1965 "Danish Jazz Musician Of  
The Year" award. He says:

"After they presented me the cheque something happens, which isn't  
shown very clearly on the video. But Ellington says to me "let's have  
some fun!" The tenor player Paul Gonsalves was sound asleep behind us  
(he had this disease that made him fall asleep all the time, even on  
the band stand). Duke wanted to play a little joke on him, so he turns  
me around to introduce me to Gonsalves. What Duke DIDN'T know was that  
Gonsalves and I knew each other very well from playing together at the  
Jazzhus Montmartre, where I was the house drummer. In fact he'd just  
been jamming there 3 nights in a row.
So, Duke wakes up Gonsalves and expects him to get all confused by  
seeing a stranger standing there in front of him. But instead  
Gonsalves just looks up at me as the most natural thing in the world  
and says "Oh, hi Alex, how are you?" That's what everybody is laughing  
about. Even Johnny Hodges!'"


Steve Barbone

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