It should come as no surprise that the first collaboration between Ella and Louis was so successful that it was quickly followed by a sequeland a double album, no less. Even the dumbest A&R man could anticipate the potential magic in the pairing; both singers were at the peak of their popularity in 1957, straying from their jazz roots yet becoming influential and noteworthy interpreters of popular song in the process. Both share a penchant for mirthful clowning and light banter, yet Armstrong’s burnished growl and Ella’s brassy swagger couldn’t be more different and still complement each other superbly. Make no mistake, this is clearly a vocal albumthe only solos are Armstrong’s, and they’re few and far betweenyet the music choices and delivery are enough to sustain the entire package.
The first two tracks set the tone for the rest of the set, playful renditions of “Don’t Be That Way” and “Makin’ Whoopie” tailor-made for the Ella and Louis treatment. The highlight is a wistful “Autumn In New York” with a lovely vocal by Ella and a trumpet solo by Louisalthough by this time Louis was playing solos the matched people's expectations of what Louis sounded like, rather than bringing anything new to the table. The only misfire is “Let’s Do It,” which drags on much too long.
The second disc is slightly better than the first, due to the melancholy ballads “Willow Weep For Me” (all Armstrong) and “Ill Wind” (all Ella) and a duet on “Our Love is Here to Stay,” where Armstrong’s trumpet solo pokes through Ella’s graceful phrasing. The Oscar Peterson trio (joined by the fiery Louis Bellson) provides understated backing throughout, Peterson keeping his feistiness in check while Ellis delivers punchy chords, playing the best rhythm guitar of his career. Although calling this a jazz album is a bit of a stretch, anyone who is a fan of either of these two artists (or jazz singing for that matter) will definitely want to check this one out.
See the Combing the Verve Catalog column for related reviews.
Visit Verve on the web.
Track Listing: Disc One: 1. Don
Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald-vocals; Louis Armstrong-vocals, trumpet; Oscar Peterson-piano; Herb Ellis-guitar;
Ray Brown-bass; Louis Bellson-drums.