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…