Nat Hentoff prefaced his 1956 down beat review of Verve's first Ella Fitzgerald-Louis Armstrong collaboration with a prediction: "Ella and Louis is one of the very, very few albums to have been issued in this era of the LP flood that is sure to endure for decades." Today, those sublime performances, along with two subsequent Norman Granz-produced Fitzgerald-Armstrong albums, are regarded as milestones of American music. A dozen gems from these works are presented here.
This studio album matches together Ella Fitzgerald and the Count Basie Orchestra 16 years after they first recorded together. Basie's sidemen are unfortunately restricted in the Benny Carter arrangements to backup work but Basie has a few piano solos and Fitzgerald is in good voice and in typically swinging form. Highlights include "Just a Sittin' and a Rockin'," "Teach Me Tonight" and "Honeysuckle Rose."
In 1961 Ella Fitzgerald recorded two albums with Nelson Riddle's Orchestra. Her voice was in peak form and, even if the backup band was somewhat anonymous, Fitzgerald uplifted the 15 songs on this set; "All of Me" was from a different obscure sampler and "Call Me Darling" was previously unissued. Although the accent is on ballads, several of the songs are taken at medium tempos and she swings throughout. Highlights include "Georgia on My Mind," "The Very Thought of You," "It's a Pity to Say Goodnight," "Darn That Dream," "Body and Soul" and a cooking "All of Me."
On this four-CD set are some of Ella Fitzgerald's finest live performances during the years she was managed by Norman Granz. All of the material (which is taken from ten different performances in 1953, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979 and 1983) was previously released on various Pablo albums. Since this is a best-of collection and was lovingly put together by the knowledgeable producer Eric Miller, the music is consistently rewarding and emphasizes the interpretive skills, scatting and jazz phrasing of the First Lady of Song. Although mostly backed by her trio/quartets of the period, Ella does get to jam "Perdido" with the 1953 JATP All-Stars, is backed by the Duke Ellington and Count Basie Orchestras on some songs and revisits "Flying Home" with an all-star group in 1983…
Originally released on Atlantic as Ella Loves Cole and then reissued on Pablo with two extra cuts from 1978, this set features the great Ella Fitzgerald (still in excellent form) backed by an orchestra arranged by Nelson Riddle performing an extensive set of Cole Porter songs. Fifteen years earlier Fitzgerald had had great success with her Cole Porter Songbook and this date, even with a few hokey arrangements, almost reaches the same level. Trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison and pianist Tommy Flanagan are among the supporting cast. Highlights include "I Get a Kick out of You," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "All of You," "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Just One of Those Things."
This admittedly pricey - but by all means mandatory - Grammy Award-winning box set is the final word on the "songbooks" recorded by Ella Fitzgerald between 1956 and 1964. The audio contents have been completely remastered and each title has been expanded - wherever possible - to include previously unissued material. In terms of packaging, the producers went to extreme lengths to create exact reproductions of all the vintage LP jacket artwork. Even going so far as to precisely miniaturize the entire hardbound text The Gershwins: Words Upon Music that accompanied their 1959 collection as well as the booklet that came with the Ellington anthology…
Another typically wonderful LP of Ella Fitzgerald in her prime, Fitzgerald is joined by pianist Lou Levy, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Joe Mondragon, and drummer Stan Levey. Fitzgerald is in fine form on such numbers as "A Night in Tunisia," an emotional "You're My Thrill," "Jersey Bounce," and "Clap Hands! Here Comes Charlie." Although not reaching the heights of her live performances, this is an excellent (and somewhat underrated) set.
In January 1966 Duke Ellington, in tournee in Europe, had some concerts in Italy with his orchestra, including some of the most famous "ellingtonians". These very rare recordings were taken during the afternoon concert at Teatro Lirico in Milan January 30, 1966. The performance of the orchestra was followed by a set of Ella Fitzgerald and her trio and was closed by a meeting of Ella and the orchestra in Cotton Tail with a very exciting duet between the "scat" of Ella and the sax of Paul Gonsalves.
Recorded in 1967 and originally released that same year by Capitol Records as an LP (and re-released seasonally several times since then), Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas is a rarity among rarities in that it is a holiday album that actually holds up as a mature artistic statement. Oh, the songs are familiar, with Fitzgerald tackling 13 standards like "Silent Night," "Joy to the World," and "We Three Kings," but in her hands they become vehicles for her precise yet natural-sounding elocution and subtle, confident vocal phrasing. In other words, she sings these songs like they're fresh and new to the world, and that's no easy task. The end result is one of the best Christmas albums ever made.
Although Count Basie gets cobilling with Ella Fitzgerald on this concert recording from the 1979 Montreux Jazz Festival, the veteran pianist is only on the final of the 11 songs. His big band, along with pianist Paul Smith, backs the veteran singer for a set of standards and, although Fitzgerald was beginning to fade, she could still hint strongly at her former greatness. Highlights include "Sweet Georgia Brown," "'Round Midnight" and "Honeysuckle Rose."