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Vocal Jazz - Released October 2, 2020 | Verve

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In 1962, Ella Fitzgerald was at the height of her powers, about midway through recording her now-iconic series of "songbook" albums and, two years earlier, having released a barnstormer of a live album, Ella in Berlin, that solidified her position as one of the most talented and popular musicians working in the jazz idiom. Her only competition at the time was, essentially, Frank Sinatra and herself. During the course of 1962, she would release three albums: two complementary collaborations with Nelson Riddle that further pushed her into crossover territory without tarnishing her credibility or minimizing her skills, and the oft-overlooked Rhythm is My Business, a hard-swinging set that comes off breezy and soulful, but is a remarkable document of the strength of Fitzgerald and her band during this era. And it's that strength that's captured on The Lost Berlin Tapes, recorded in concert at Berlin’s Sportpalast that year. Verve Records founder Norman Granz frequently recorded live sets of many of his acts (Fitzgerald especially), and that's what accounts for both the existence and the remarkable fidelity of these "lost" tapes. (Though they were never truly lost; Granz had just stashed them away). From a performance perspective, it's unbelievable that this concert recording sat unheard for more than a half-century. Brimming with energy and benefiting from the confidence that can only come from being at the top of one's game, Ella and her band careen through 17 songs with a full-throated fervor that's greeted with an equally enthusiastic response from the crowd. The set both swings incredibly hard and evinces a cool, sophisticated polish, a combination that, again, pretty much only she and Sinatra were delivering at this scale during the era. It's the sort of casual excellence that's made to look deceptively easy. (And yes, she aces the version of "Mack the Knife" here.) Releases like this—especially in the aftermath of the devastating Universal fire that destroyed so many iconic album masters and so much unreleased material—prove that, even when we think a barrel has been fully scraped or a vault fully excavated, there will always be warm, welcome surprises to be found in the archives of these legendary artists. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1963 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Verve

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Along with her Rodgers and Hart collection, this is one of the best of Ella Fitzgerald's songbooks. Fitzgerald's assured and elegant voice is a perfect match for Mercer's urbane lyrics and Nelson Riddle's supple arrangements. In light of this decorous setting, it's not surprising that Mercer's swagger-heavy numbers like "I Wanna Be Around" and "One More For My Baby" are skipped in favor of more poised selections such as "Early Autumn" and "Skylark." Even traditionally hard-swinging numbers such as "Day In Day Out" and "Something's Gotta Give" are kept in check with Riddle's vaporous, flute-heavy backing and Fitzgerald's velvet tone. Slower numbers like "Laura" and "Midnight Sun" add dramatic contrast with their enigmatic tonal backdrops and elongated vocal phrasing. Fitzgerald's Mercer songbook has become something of an overlooked gem partly because of the popularity of her Cole Porter and Gershwin collections. It's a shame, because this songbook is beautifully executed by Fitzgerald and Riddle and contains wonderful Mercer collaborations with, among others, Harold Arlen and Hoagy Charmichael. This is definitely one for any Fitzgerald fan and not a bad introduction to her vast catalog. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1963 | Verve

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Ella Fitzgerald is rightfully adored for her superb, often-definitive interpretations of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart, and Gershwin tunes, which are well documented in her Song Book series. The addition of Sings the Jerome Kern Song Book to Fitzgerald's discography is welcome. Recorded in 1963, the album proves Fitzgerald's voice as golden as ever. Yet age was beginning to color her singing a bit, and that texture adds a beautiful dimension to songs like the dark "Why Was I Born?" and the yearning "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." Nelson Riddle's charts are typically smart and swinging, with a lush, full sound that balances punch and lyricism. Fitzgerald's ebullient delivery and honey-rich timbre bring out the humor of "A Fine Romance," the wistfulness of "I'm Old Fashioned," and the tender romance of "The Way You Look Tonight," putting her distinctive stamp on each. It's sure to please fans of Kern and big-band standards, and for aficionados of Fitzgerald's other Song Book albums, this is a must. © Anthony Tognazzini /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Verve Reissues

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1963 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Fantasy Records

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For years, "The Girl fom Ipanema" was a staple in Ella Fitzgerald's songbook, so it's something of a wonder that it was not until 1981 that Ella Abraça Jobim, Fitzgerald's double-album immersion in Antonio Carlos Jobim's back catalog, appeared. Ella's first single-composer release since 1964's tribute to Jerome Kern, Ella Abraça Jobim is, more than anything, final proof of the unassuming Brazilian's place in jazz history alongside the great composers. Sadly Jobim's mellow bossa nova, drenched in the Brazilian concept of saudade, or agreeable melancholy, doesn't necessarily gel with Fitzgerald's swing-based and energetic vocal style. Fitzgerald and her small group take songs like "Agua de Beber (Water to Drink)" at just slightly too speedy a tempo, rushing a bit where they should be gamboling. Fitzgerald is in very good voice compared to some other recordings from her later years, though, sadly, she's clearly not at her peak. Norman Granz's production is typically excellent, however, and the arrangements are refreshingly free of the typical late-'70s/early-'80s post-fusion clichés. Neither Fitzgerald nor Jobim's finest, then, but not without merit. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | Verve Reissues

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Ella Fitzgerald didn't lack for live recording opportunities in the late '50s, which on the surface, would make this first issue of a 1958 Chicago live club date an easy one to pass on. Verve label head Norman Granz recorded her often in the '50s with an eye to releasing live albums, which he did with her shows at Newport in 1957 and Los Angeles' Opera House in 1958 (not to mention another 1958 concert in Rome that was released 30 years later to wide acclaim). Those shows, however, differed widely from this one, which found her in front of a very small audience at Chicago's jazz Mecca Mister Kelly's (Sarah Vaughan's landmark At Mister Kelly's was recorded there four months earlier). Fitzgerald's artistry is basically a given in this situation, but much of the material recorded here was rare and obscure; "Your Red Wagon" had only been released as a single, her delightfully melodic "Across the Alley from the Alamo" never appeared elsewhere, and for a pair of Sinatra evergreens -- "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and "Witchcraft" -- the former had never appeared, and the latter only appeared later, on a 1961 return to the site of her Berlin live landmark. © John Bush /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released December 2, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Reissues

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Ella Fitzgerald had recorded live albums in venues ranging from Newport to Berlin to Hollywood when she and a quartet led by Roy Eldridge traveled to Japan in early 1964 for a series of concerts. Norman Granz, the former Verve head and current Fitzgerald manager who accompanied the musicians on their trip, recorded the concerts for release, but the tapes sat unissued in the Verve vaults -- a victim of the surplus of Ella material already recorded but not released -- for nearly 50 years, until the 2011 two-disc reissue Ella in Japan: 'S Wonderful. In the early '60s, Japan was thick with jazz fans, and crowds swarmed the Hibiya Kokaido Public Hall in Tokyo for the January 19 show that is included on the first disc. (The second disc includes a far more exclusive affair, recorded at a hotel a few days later.) Although another live album was recorded and released just a few short months after these shows (Ella at Juan-Les-Pins), the material has few overlaps. Ella is in fine form -- as usual, she turned up the candlepower in front of an audience -- personalizing Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here with You" early in the program, and even singing in Japanese, to the delight of the crowd, during a stirring "'S Wonderful." The quartet, including Eldrige on trumpet plus pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Bill Yancey, and drummer Gus Johnson, are quite adept at sounding bigger than a four-piece, especially on Ella's saucy "Whatever Lola Wants." (Also, an instrumental mini-set of four tracks concludes the first disc.) Raiding the vaults can be a risky proposition, but here, as with the massive four-disc Twelve Nights in Hollywood compilation, fans of Fitzgerald specifically, or great jazz singing in general, will find a wealth of great material. © John Bush /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | GRP

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This outstanding 20-track anthology gives those who didn't get any of the various Fitzgerald reissues a chance to hear what all the furor was about. This disc combines the classy Ella Sings Gershwin album with eight other standards. There's very sparse support, much of it coming from stately pianist Ellis Larkins, long a favorite of vocalists everywhere for his ability to support without intruding. Otherwise, it's Fitzgerald's sublime voice, interpreting and dissecting sentiments, themes, and moods with the touch of a master. She never oversings, rushes, or fails to get everything from a tune. Besides great diction and technique, she's also simply a marvelous vocalist. There are no straining, unnecessary inflections, grunts or moans, but she also doesn't coast or hold back during her performances. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1979 | Pablo

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A good title cut, strictly by the book. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Verve

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Along with her Rodgers and Hart collection, this is one of the best of Ella Fitzgerald's songbooks. Fitzgerald's assured and elegant voice is a perfect match for Mercer's urbane lyrics and Nelson Riddle's supple arrangements. In light of this decorous setting, it's not surprising that Mercer's swagger-heavy numbers like "I Wanna Be Around" and "One More For My Baby" are skipped in favor of more poised selections such as "Early Autumn" and "Skylark." Even traditionally hard-swinging numbers such as "Day In Day Out" and "Something's Gotta Give" are kept in check with Riddle's vaporous, flute-heavy backing and Fitzgerald's velvet tone. Slower numbers like "Laura" and "Midnight Sun" add dramatic contrast with their enigmatic tonal backdrops and elongated vocal phrasing. Fitzgerald's Mercer songbook has become something of an overlooked gem partly because of the popularity of her Cole Porter and Gershwin collections. It's a shame, because this songbook is beautifully executed by Fitzgerald and Riddle and contains wonderful Mercer collaborations with, among others, Harold Arlen and Hoagy Charmichael. This is definitely one for any Fitzgerald fan and not a bad introduction to her vast catalog. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1959 | Verve Reissues

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
A fine gem among the diamonds of Ella Fitzgerald's late-'50s period with Verve, Hello Love may not have approached the quality of her songbooks, but it did allow her to sing a few fine songs she'd missed the first time around. (And although none of the songbook giants are represented, the material is hardly second-rate.) Wrapped in the strings of Frank DeVol's orchestra, Fitzgerald is a bewitching presence singing these dreamy standards: "Tenderly," "You Go to My Head," "Willow Weep for Me," and "Stairway to the Stars." DeVol's charts are dynamic as well, allowing space for expressive players such as trumpeters Harry "Sweets" Edison and Pete Candoli or tenor Ben Webster. A few of the titles are solo versions of songs she had recently sung on her Louis Armstrong duets. © John Bush /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1997 | Verve

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Surprisingly enough this 1963 LP was the first time (other than a couple songs) that Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie recorded together. (The match-up was so logical that it would be repeated many times over the next 20 years.) Fitzgerald sounds fine and, even if Quincy Jones' arrangements did not give the Basie musicians as much space for solos -- although two songs do feature a bit of trumpeter Joe Newman, trombonist Urbie Green and Frank Foster on tenor -- this is an enjoyable effort. High points include "Honeysuckle Rose," "Them There Eyes" and "Shiny Stockings." © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Verve

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Ella Fitzgerald combined forces with a studio orchestra conducted and arranged by Marty Paich for this 1962 studio session covering selections from hit Broadway productions, featuring compositions by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Adler & Ross, and Frank Loesser. While the arrangements feature brief ensemble passages, the songs are a vehicle for the singer and are deliberately brief. Surprisingly, few of these Broadway tunes became standards for jazz singers. "Hernando's Hideaway" found favor with Fitzgerald and she added it to her repertoire for time; this version is entertaining with a prominent role for the bass clarinet, though it is somewhat hampered by its rather mundane lyric. The campy "Steam Heat" is inevitably associated with Shirley McClaine, but Ella makes a good effort on a number that would be considered a misfit by most of her fans. "If I Were a Bell" is fairly swinging; while the swinging "Almost Like Being in Love" is clearly the gem of the date, although both songs feature a distracting backup vocal group that should have been omitted. Ella's enthusiasm and spirited vocals carry the day on this fun-filled CD. © Ken Dryden /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1999 | Verve

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Organist Bill Doggett had a rare chance on this album to write swinging charts for a big band. Ella Fitzgerald is in the spotlight throughout, mostly singing swing-era songs along with a couple of newer pieces, such as "Hallelujah I Love Him So" and "No Moon at All." "I Can't Face the Music" is the longest performance at 5:01, and all but three of the other selections are under three minutes, so there is no real stretching out. However, Ella's voice was in its prime, and the charts are excellent. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released April 8, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | Fantasy Records

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A collection of classic big-band-era performances by possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time, ALL THAT JAZZ is both an excellent introduction to the glory that is Ella Fitzgerald and an archetypal album of vocal jazz. Fitzgerald's trademark scatting is in full force on these 12 tracks, which are mostly live recordings. Many of the songs feature extended scat solos from Fitzgerald, as well as instrumental turns from alto Benny Carter, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, and others. The songs range from standards like "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and "That Ol' Devil Called Love" to lesser-known gems like the delirious "The Jersey Bounce" and the exquisitely soulful "Baby Don't You Quit Now." A heartbreaking turn at "Good Morning Heartache" is perhaps the highest point, but it's difficult to pick a single best track among so much flawless material. © TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Verve

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Along with her Rodgers and Hart collection, this is one of the best of Ella Fitzgerald's songbooks. Fitzgerald's assured and elegant voice is a perfect match for Mercer's urbane lyrics and Nelson Riddle's supple arrangements. In light of this decorous setting, it's not surprising that Mercer's swagger-heavy numbers like "I Wanna Be Around" and "One More For My Baby" are skipped in favor of more poised selections such as "Early Autumn" and "Skylark." Even traditionally hard-swinging numbers such as "Day In Day Out" and "Something's Gotta Give" are kept in check with Riddle's vaporous, flute-heavy backing and Fitzgerald's velvet tone. Slower numbers like "Laura" and "Midnight Sun" add dramatic contrast with their enigmatic tonal backdrops and elongated vocal phrasing. Fitzgerald's Mercer songbook has become something of an overlooked gem partly because of the popularity of her Cole Porter and Gershwin collections. It's a shame, because this songbook is beautifully executed by Fitzgerald and Riddle and contains wonderful Mercer collaborations with, among others, Harold Arlen and Hoagy Charmichael. This is definitely one for any Fitzgerald fan and not a bad introduction to her vast catalog. © Stephen Cook /TiVo