There’s no scarcity of Ella Fitzgerald on record. From her precocious work with Chick Webb’s Orchestra to her twilight albums on Norman Granz’s Pablo imprint her discography numbers easily into the triple digits. So why the need for this recent Buddah compilation? The answer lies in the nature of the selections themselves. Culled from three shows at the Savoy and Roseland Ballrooms in New York and the Grand Terrace in Chicago they represent Ella’s earliest concert recordings and thanks to meticulous audio restoration they sound beautiful.
The pace of the disc moves more like a medley of tunes rather than autonomous pieces and the majority of the songs are taken in truncated form, which is perhaps a product of the set’s radio origins. The fidelity is surprisingly clean considering the vintage of the performances and there are lots of tight orchestral breaks that allow the soloists in the band brief chances to step up front. Taft Jordan even trades his brass for voice on a few numbers joining Ella in song. Fitzgerald, for her part, strolls smoothly through the popular hits of the day draping the audience’s ears in her signature mix of sentimentality and sass. Some tunes such as the hopelessly moribund “My Wubba Dolly” and the vaguely racist “Sing Song Swing” border on the bothersome, but by and large the program serves up a solid set of swingers. The icing on the package is found in Will Friedwald’s insightful liners, which examine the importance of the recordings and Ella’s regal place in the pedigree of popular song. Those listeners with a soft spot for lively swinging vocal jazz should definitely shell out the bread for this one as diehard fans of Fitzgerald have no doubt already done so.
Tracks:A Tisket A Tasket/ Oh Boy I’m In the Groove/ Day In-Day Out/ Billy/ Please Tell Me the Truth/ Sing Song Swing/ The Starlit Hour/ The Yodelin’ Jive/ Baby, What Else Can I Do/ My Wubba Dolly/ My Prayer/ Betcha Nickel/ To You/ The Jumpin’ Jive/ Careless/ Well All Right! / Stairway To The Stars/ That’s All Brother/ The Lamp Is Low/ Little White Lies/ St. Louis Blues.
Players:Ella Fitzgerald- vocals; Dick Vance, Bobby Stark, Taft Jordan- trumpets; George Matthews, Nat Story, Sandy Williams- trombones; Garvin Bushell- clarinet, soprano saxophone; Hilton Jefferson- alto saxophone; Wayman Carver- alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute; Teddy McRae- tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Tommy Fulford- piano; John Trueheart- guitar; Beverly Peer- bass; Bill Beason- drums.
Recorded: 1939, New York City and Chicago.
Buddah Records on the web: http://www.BuddahRecords.com