Quest for the Moment: The Audio Production of "Ellington at Newport"


Quest for the Moment: The Audio Production of "Ellington at Newport"
Jazz Perspectives
1749-4060, 1749-4079
In 1999, Sony-Columbia made Duke Ellington's greatest-selling LP, Ellington at Newport (1956), the centerpiece of their reissue series celebrating the composer's 100th birthday. The double-CD boasted one hundred minutes of previously unreleased and digitally remastered music from the 1956 Newport concert and included lengthy liner notes by reissue producer Phil Schaap. Ellington at Newport (Complete), as the CD was titled, sparked controversy within jazz circles because it revealed that the LP was not “Recorded in Performance on July 7, 1956,” as the jacket states, but rather a hybrid creation: producer George Avakian overlaid audience noise and studio overdubs onto the masters from the Newport concert after the fact. This brought audio production of historically significant moments like the 1956 Newport Festival to public attention. Columbia Records and Schaap offered the CD reissue as a historical corrective and, in doing so, re-imagined Ellington's 1956 concert and his most mythologized moment on record. By closely comparing the sonic details of the 1956 LP and 1999 CD, this article argues that the discrepancies between the versions of Ellington at Newport reveal historically specific ideas of what constitutes jazz on record. Both records involve highly skilled and creative uses of the recording studio though differ significantly in how each producer chose to represent the live event in sound. In this essay, I assert that production, post-production, and other forms of technological mediation crucially impact historical and contemporary understandings of Ellington's music.
Quest for the Moment
2019-04-30T22:55:45Z (Crossref)