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Ella Fitzgerald|Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (Live)

Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (Live)

Ella Fitzgerald

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While the 1960 live album Ella in Berlin: Mack The Knife will always be the peak of Ella Fitzgerald's solo recording career, this exciting discovery is yet another example of her voice and interpretative drive being pushed to new heights by her audience.  The great jazz singer's other strength as a soloist when it came to recordings—other than her fine collaborations with Louis Armstrong, which are practically their own genre—are the songbook collections she made in the studio with Norman Granz for his Verve label. While they all have their strong points, and the Duke Ellington collection where he and his band back her is exceptional, the volumes dedicated to Cole Porter and Irving Berlin rang true and sold big numbers, and it was music from those two collections that was featured in a split program at the Hollywood Bowl on August 16, 1958. The first pleasant surprise here is the sound. Project producer Gregg Field, who actually played drums with Fitzgerald for a time, has heroically recovered an enormous amount of information from the 64-year-old 1/4" tapes. Though rounded and dynamically limited, the sound is reasonably well-balanced between Fitzgerald's voice and the accompanying full orchestra. While it may be the presence of the audience spurring her on during the upbeat numbers, including many of Berlin's best-known tunes, they are delicious here. 


"Cheek to Cheek" glides along on her faultless phrasing, and she prances through "Puttin' on the Ritz." And the tempos are loosened in the closer "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Conductor Paul Weston, whose arrangements are heard on the studio records, also marshaled the forces at the Bowl; this would be the only time Fitzgerald performed these arrangements live with a full orchestra. Several more obscure Berlin compositions are the attraction for Fitzgerald fans and collectors, including a gorgeous, bittersweet take on the short "Russian Lullaby." Her sassy run through "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," is another unexpected revelation. It was one of those nights when luckily all the pieces—the voice, the band, the conductor, the tape machine were all in top form. Now when do we get to hear the Cole Porter material, the other half of the concert?  © Robert Baird/Qobuz

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While the 1960 live album Ella in Berlin: Mack The Knife will always be the peak of Ella Fitzgerald's solo recording career, this exciting discovery is yet another example of her voice and interpretative drive being pushed to new heights by her audience.  The great jazz singer's other strength as a soloist when it came to recordings—other than her fine collaborations with Louis Armstrong, which are practically their own genre—are the songbook collections she made in the studio with Norman Granz for his Verve label. While they all have their strong points, and the Duke Ellington collection where he and his band back her is exceptional, the volumes dedicated to Cole Porter and Irving Berlin rang true and sold big numbers, and it was music from those two collections that was featured in a split program at the Hollywood Bowl on August 16, 1958. The first pleasant surprise here is the sound. Project producer Gregg Field, who actually played drums with Fitzgerald for a time, has heroically recovered an enormous amount of information from the 64-year-old 1/4" tapes. Though rounded and dynamically limited, the sound is reasonably well-balanced between Fitzgerald's voice and the accompanying full orchestra. While it may be the presence of the audience spurring her on during the upbeat numbers, including many of Berlin's best-known tunes, they are delicious here. 


"Cheek to Cheek" glides along on her faultless phrasing, and she prances through "Puttin' on the Ritz." And the tempos are loosened in the closer "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Conductor Paul Weston, whose arrangements are heard on the studio records, also marshaled the forces at the Bowl; this would be the only time Fitzgerald performed these arrangements live with a full orchestra. Several more obscure Berlin compositions are the attraction for Fitzgerald fans and collectors, including a gorgeous, bittersweet take on the short "Russian Lullaby." Her sassy run through "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," is another unexpected revelation. It was one of those nights when luckily all the pieces—the voice, the band, the conductor, the tape machine were all in top form. Now when do we get to hear the Cole Porter material, the other half of the concert?  © Robert Baird/Qobuz

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