Simply a grand and eloquent performance put together by Verve records highlighting the best years of Ella Fitzgerald – that sassy, charming legendary singer in jazz. The Best of the Songbooks features a captivating lineup of some of jazz's greatest composers and arrangers. It is here that Fitzgerald records and sings songs of Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George & Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and Johnny Mercer.
Though her career stretched from the '30s to the '80s and she's widely considered possibly the greatest female jazz singer or all time, Ella Fitzgerald will probably forever be best known for a mid-'50s collection of albums collectively called the Songbooks, where she devoted entire albums to the works of such composers as Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, and Duke Ellington. THE BEST OF THE SONGBOOKS: THE BALLADS is one of the many compilations based on these recordings, and one of the best. From its beautiful, informative packaging to its gorgeously remastered sound, this 16-track, 64-minute collection treats the material with the respect it deserves. The material, of course, is first-rate, wall-to-wall standards from Johnny Mercer's wistful "Laura" to Ellington's sly "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me." Fitzgerald's performances are equally outstanding, as are the mostly big-band arrangements. This is as good as jazz ballad collections get.
Husband and wife team violinist Thomas Zehetmair and violist Ruth Killius have divided their performing and recording careers between standard and contemporary repertoire. On this CD they tackle a diverse selection of 20th and 21st century repertoire for their instruments. Giacinto Scelsi's 1957 Manto for viola and female voice is in the three movements. The first two, for viola alone, betray little direction or focus and are relentlessly, gratingly dissonant. The third movement with voice is intriguing in its interweaving of the contrasting timbres and is altogether engaging.
Ella Fitzgerald, who in the late '50s recorded the very extensive George and Ira Gershwin Songbook, revisits their music on this duet outing with pianist André Previn. Her voice was past her prime by this point, but she was able to bring out a lot of the beauty in the ten songs, giving the classic melodies and lyrics tasteful and lightly swinging treatment. Nice Work If You Can Get It is not an essential CD but is a reasonably enjoyable outing.
This is one of Ella Fitzgerald's most enjoyable recordings from her later years. With pianist Tommy Flanagan, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Keter Betts, and drummer Bobby Durham serving as a backup group (not a bad band), she swings everything from "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "It Don't Mean a Thing" to "Lemon Drop" and even Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." Her ballad interpretations are only topped by her scatting talents. This set serves as a perfect introduction to the mature Ella Fitzgerald.
After an auspicious beginning with the Chick Webb band and long solo run featuring a celebrated string of songbook albums on Verve (Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, etc.), Ella Fitzgerald maintained her high profile from the mid-'60s onward, mostly by touring the world and - to a lesser extent - recording a series of enjoyable dates for Pablo. This informal-sounding, never before released Stockholm concert recording from 1966 shows why Fitzgerald as primarily a live performer is not such a bad thing. Backed by Duke Ellington's orchestra and her own trio of pianist Jimmy Jones, bassist Joe Comfort, and drummer Gus Johnson, she shows off her incredible interpretive skills on a mix of standards heavy with Ellington and Strayhorn classics…