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.
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."