Although Ella Fitzgerald had been on the jazz scene for over four decades by the time of this 1975 concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival, she still knew how to swing and keep the audience in the palm of her hand. Backed by lyrical pianist Tommy Flanagan, the solid bassist Keter Betts and the driving drummer Bobby Durham, the vocalist wows the crowd with a mix of standards, popular jazz compositions and ballads in a way that only she could do it. Even though her voice shows evidence of a little more vibrato on her held notes at the end of a phrase (especially on the ballads), she still emotes like no one else, occasionally adding some playful scat in the up-tempo numbers and captivating the audience with her romp through "How High the Moon"…
Ella Fitzgerald and guitarist Joe Pass teamed up in a set of duets for this album which has been reissued on CD. Because the emphasis is on ballads and not all of the songs are that well suited to Fitzgerald's musical personality (particularly "Lush Life" and "I Want to Talk About You"), this set is only a mixed success. Much more successful are "Don't Be That Way" and "A Foggy Day" but this is not one of the more essential Ella Fitzgerald records.
Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington did not team up in concert until relatively late in their careers (although she did record her Ellington Songbook with him in the '50s). This live double-LP actually finds Fitzgerald singing six numbers with the Jimmy Jones Trio and only "Mack the Knife" and a scat-filled "It Don't Mean a Thing" with the orchestra. Ellington has eight numbers for his band, mostly remakes of older tunes (including a guest appearance by former associate Ben Webster on "All Too Soon," a remarkable Buster Cooper trombone feature, and a rowdy version of "The Old Circus Train Turn-Around Blues"). This is a spirited set of music that with better planning could have been great.
This attractive three-CD set gives listeners an overview of Ella Fitzgerald's Verve recordings, although the inclusion of seven previously unissued cuts (in addition to 44 that are mostly available in more complete form elsewhere) will frustrate some completists. However the careful selection of representative performances along with the informative and lengthy text make this highly enjoyable reissue (which captures her in prime form) recommended even to collectors who have most of the singer's albums.