Albums

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Classics

Few vocalists have managed to succeed so well in both jazz and pop music as did Ella Fitzgerald. The 11th installment in her complete Classics chronology presents 24 Decca recordings made between February 2 and December 20, 1950. On eight of these she is backed by Sy Oliver & His Orchestra, sometimes singing duets with Oliver himself. Fitzgerald seems to have been able to make sense out of any routine and had the ability to put a song across in virtually any company. During this period she collaborated with two vocal groups: the aggressively wholesome Four Hits & a Miss and the Ink Spots, with whom she'd made records back in 1944. She also rendered up a suite of eight Gershwin tunes with Ellis Larkins at the piano, sat in with Louis Jordan & His Tympany 5, cut a pair of delightful duets with Louis Armstrong, and rattled off a couple of idiotic novelty tunes, accompanied by a giggling, unidentified vocal group composed of either children or foolish adults. "Molasses, Molasses" was also recorded by Spike Jones & His City Slickers with a falsetto group vocal led by squeaky-voiced George Rock, a capable trumpeter who had an annoying habit of impersonating little boys. Ella Fitzgerald's version is better, if that means anything. For a much hipper and funnier song about molasses, see Bob Howard (1937-1947, Classics 1055). ~ arwulf arwulf
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Classics

The 15th installment in the complete studio recordings of Ella Fitzgerald as reissued in the Classics Chronological Series contains 22 titles cut between March 30, 1954, and August 5, 1955, marking the tail end of her contractual obligations as a Decca recording artist. Ella's involvement with Decca extended a full 20 years back to her initial recording session with the Chick Webb Orchestra in June 1935; by January of 1956 she would be working with Norman Granz (who had already been recording her in live performance with his Jazz at the Philharmonic package), inaugurating one of the great longstanding singer/producer collaborations in the entire history of recorded jazz. Drawing upon material originally made available on the LPs Sweet and Hot, Songs in a Mellow Mood, The First Lady of Song, Lullabies of Birdland and Songs from "Pete Kelly's Blues" (a motion picture in which Ella appeared cast as a jazz singer), this patchwork compilation opens with three songs that close out one of the delightful sessions that she shared with pianist Ellis Larkins during the spring of 1954. The next two titles come from a date that was typical of Decca's approach to artists and repertoire, for here Ella and a sextet including tenor saxophonist Sam Taylor, pianist Hank Jones, and organist Bill Doggett were pitted against a standard issue '50s pop vocal choir. Other ensembles heard on this disc were conducted or supervised by Benny Carter, Sy Oliver, André Previn, Dick Hyman, and Toots Camarata. Altogether, it's a fine portrait of Ella Fitzgerald in one of her primes, and an effective appetizer for the next chapter in her musical biography. ~ arwulf arwulf
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Classics

£7.99

Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Classics

The 13th installment in the Classics Ella Fitzgerald chronology documents her recording activity during a period extending from early January to late November 1952. The two opening tracks constitute a veritable scat fest with accompaniment by the Ray Charles Singers and a small band anchored by organist Bill Doggett and pianist Hank Jones. The next nine titles document Fitzgerald's continuing collaborations with bandleader Sy Oliver. Matt Dennis' ballad "Angel Eyes" is rendered beautifully, even if it is nestled among silly titles like "Goody Goody," "A Guy Is a Guy," and "Ding-Dong Boogie," a rowdy novelty better suited for Teresa Brewer; it benefits greatly from a gutbucket sax solo by Sam "The Man" Taylor. Accompanied by Bobby Orton's Teen-Aces, Ella makes her own stunning "Contribution to the Blues," revives Una Mae Carlisle's magnum opus "Walking by the River," and presents "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" as a West Indian dance number bristling with bongos and conga drums. This was not Ella's first venture into Caribbean territory; her infamous calypso outing "Stone Cold Dead in the Market," recorded with Louis Jordan & His Tympany 5 during the mid-'40s, is still a force with which to be reckoned (see 1945-1947, Classics 998). Throughout her tenure as a Decca recording artist, Fitzgerald demonstrated an uncanny ability to sing anything; she would convert weak material into good stuff or transform great songs into masterpieces. It is now known that during the early '50s producer Norman Granz "harshly criticized" the A&R management at Decca Records for consistently handing Ella Fitzgerald patently inferior material and sometimes teaming her up with musicians who were either not in her league or were incapable of tuning in to her wavelength. Until this vocalist's Decca contract expired, Granz could only include her in his touring Jazz at the Philharmonic package (those concert performances were assiduously recorded in their entirety for later release) while making plans for their eventual studio collaborations, which would include the multiple great American composer Song Book projects. ~ arwulf arwulf
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Classics

Most of Ella Fitzgerald's recordings from 1951 (all of which are on this CD) are obscure and have rarely been reissued. "The First Lady of the American Song" turned 34 that year and was in peak form, as she would be throughout the decade. The music ranges from novelties ("Two Little Men In A Flying Saucer," and a cover of "Come On-A My House,") to worthy versions of "Love You Madly," "Smooth Sailing," and "Baby Doll." The settings range from tunes with Sy Oliver's Orchestra and occasional background singers, to a date with Hank Jones, and four lesser-known but delightful duets with Louis Armstrong: "Necessary Evil," "Oops," "Would You Like To Take A Walk," and "Who Walks In When I Walk Out." ~ Scott Yanow
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Classics

In her live performances of 1949, Ella Fitzgerald (who turned 33 that year) often showed the influence of bebop in her phrasing and improvising. However, her studio recordings for Decca (all 21 selections that she cut that year on are on this CD) are surprisingly absent of bebop, instead alternating ballads and bluish pieces with a few swing-oriented numbers. Fitzgerald sounds typically wonderful and cheerful, but the arrangements (for the orchestras of Sy Oliver, Goron Jenkins, and Sonny Burke) are often closer to middle-of-the-road pop music than to jazz. Fitzgerald sounds in fine form on such numbers as "Old Mother Hubbard," "Happy Talk," "Black Coffee," "In the Evening," and "I Hadn't Anyone Till You," imitating Louis Armstrong a bit on "Basin Street Blues." In addition, there are two numbers with Louis Jordan's Tympany Five (including "Baby It's Cold Outside") and two forgettable selections with the Mills Brothers. This CD is a real gap-filler (few of these selections are ever reissued), but not essential. ~ Scott Yanow

Genre

Vocal Jazz in the magazine