50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time

Rolling Stone ranks the 50 best live albums ever, from Jimi Hendrix at Monterey to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

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Duke Ellington, 'Ellington at Newport' (1956)
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25/50

25. Duke Ellington, 'Ellington at Newport' (1956)

The gig couldn't have started less promisingly: four probably drunk band members failed to show up, and Ellington played the premiere jazz festival for all of 12 minutes before realizing they couldn't continue. But late at night they returned en masse and burned the hides off the hipsters with a set that gave his career new meaning. Everything comes down to "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," a then-decades-old dance tune that flowered at Newport into a six minute, 27-chorus jam by tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves that bumped, grinded and talked in your ear. Duke shouts at Gonsalves, "Higher!" A blond woman in a black dress got up to dance, and then a lot of women did. A month later, Duke was on the cover of Time magazine. Bebop had made big band music seem almost corny, but Newport showed that mastery is mastery. "I was born in 1956, at the Newport Jazz Festival," the Duke later declared. RJ Smith

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