Tenor saxophone player Paul Gonsalves impacted the international jazz scene and is credited with reviving the sagging career of the legendary Duke Ellington.

Gonsalves was born on July 12, 1920 in Brockton, Massachusetts.

His parents, Joao Jose Gonsalves and Maria Vieira Fontes, arrived in Brockton from Djam d'Noli, Brava, Cabo Verde in 1905 and 1913, respectively. The Creola Genealogist says, "The family lived at 50 Sprague Street, where Paul was the third of four children."

According to the site, "The family moved to 449 Mineral Springs Avenue in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1930."

New Bedford Jazzman's Sax Solo Saved Duke Ellington's Career
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Young Paul Gonsalves was taught to play guitar and perform traditional Cape Verdean songs by his father. He took up the saxophone after catching a performance by the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra in Providence.

The Creola Genealogist says Gonsalves "Went on to study at The Boston Conservatory of Music," where he joined on with several bands.

Spinner Publications' A Picture History of New Bedford Vol. 2 reports, "Gonsalves often came to New Bedford from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to perform with his two brothers."

The publication says, "In 1937, the Gonsalves Brothers Trio entered – and won – a Creole talent contest at Monte Pio Hall in New Bedford.

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Gonsalves moved to New Bedford, where he "gigged and subbed" with local bands. He remained in the city until joining the Army in 1942.

After the Army, Gonsalves joined the Sabby Lewis Band in Boston, which led to jobs with Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington.

While performing with Duke's Big Band at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves soloed on the saxophone for 27 choruses of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue."

New Bedford Jazzman's Sax Solo Saved Duke Ellington's Career
Courtesy Spinner Publications

The album Ellington At Newport cemented Gonslaves' legacy as a jazz master and revived Ellington's sagging career.

Gonsalves and Ellington were best friends until they died within days of each other in 1974.

Spinner says, "Whenever he (Gonsalves) visited New Bedford, friends arranged after-hours gigs with the area's Cape Verdeans."

The site says, "He would also drop into local venues such as The Kettle in Acushnet, The Piccadilly Lounge, the Cape Verdean Band Club, and the Sharpshooters Hall."

"Gonsalves said he preferred playing for New Bedford's Cape Verdean crowds over audiences in New York, whom he felt took musicians for granted."

The Dule Ellington Band with Paul Gonsalves appeared at New Bedford High School on County Street in New Bedford on February 25, 1962.

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