The Video of Paul Gonsalves caught napping attracted the following comments.
The Gonsalves clip brings to mind an incident that happened when I was editing Down Beat.
Ellington was making one of his regular two-week appearances at Chicago’s Blue Note, and on opening niight, in front of a full house that included local press and celebrities, Gonsalves nodded out in then same manner we see on the video.
But to compound it all, he also fell out of his chair, got to his seat again, then promptly nodded out once more.
I went back the next night and had a chance to talk to Duke privately,and I said something to him like, “I know it is none of my business, Duke, but isn’t it of great personal embarrassment to you when something like that happens?”
Ellington simply smiled urbanely and told me that one must be able to overlook such indidents when they involve a man who served his country so well in India (as a soldier in WWII) and who, while in that service, contracted a rare tropical disease that “occasionally makes him fall asleep.”
I could only smile in rueful appreciation of his answer–I had been satisfactorily squelched and told to mind my magazine and he would mind his band.
I had been ducally euchred.
Mr. Tracy was editor of Down Beat in the mid 1950s.
There is a famous story about Paul, not quite as asleep as he is in the video, but well in his cups when Hamilton nudged him to let him know it was his solo next. Paul roused himself and stepped to the microphone. Hearing the continuing applause for the previous soloist, he thought he must have already played, so he bowed and returned to his seat.
Mr. Crow is a distinguished bassist and author.
Paul Gonsalves was great, on the countless Ellington sessions as well as outside that band. Check out the “Sittin’ In” session, recently reissued by Verve, where he’s playing together with Stan Getz and Coleman Hawkins.
The whole Copenhagen 1965 concert, from which the “Perdido” clip is taken, is available on DVD.
Paul’s sleeping causes a couple more interesting scenes during the evening, like Cootie Williams coming down for his solo and saying “WAKE up Paul, WAKE up!” when passing him. At one point Ellington tells Jimmy Hamilton to wake Paul up, and Hamilton just extends his arm to hold Paul’s shoulder, with this incredibly bored look on his face. He doesn’t shake him or anything, just puts his hand on Paul’s shoulder.
Also, not Paul-related, Duke does this little juggler’s trick with the head of a mike that keeps falling off. That takes the bored look off many of the musicians’ faces for a moment: they are really surprised.
Somewhere I’ve read this Clark Terry story that Clark would always write postcards to Paul’s mother, pretending it was Paul. Like “Hi Mom, we’re in such-and-such place, love you, Paul.” And then whenever Paul would come home, the first thing his mother would ask, “how’s my boy Clarka Terry?”
(Writing from Germany)
The story about Mrs. Gonsalves is from the liner notes I wrote for the Clark Terry CD Daylight Express–DR
Camden Hughes | Learn Jazz Standards says
This is a great story! I’ve included the story, with a backlink, at my website. You can also view the original video there.