Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong: The Complete Studio Recorded Duets
The Complete Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Studio Recorded Duets
Avid Records UK
Was there ever a match made in heaven like singer Ella Fitzgerald and singer/trumpeter Louis Armstrong? When Norman Granz had them together on the Verve label, the impulse to put them together in the studio had to be irresistible. And it was a terrific move, resulting in three terrific albums: Ella and Louis, Ella and Louis Again and Porgy and Bess. Their work together is a highlight of the 1950s, a busy time for classic vocal jazz records, and both were in fine form on these dates, Fitzgerald's sweetly melodic voice contrasting nicely with Armstrong's coarse rasp. And both were also riding the crest of popular success, Fitzgerald peeling off terrific record after terrific record while Armstrong was an elder statesman who, if not quite as popular as he was a few decades ago, had become one of the world's most beloved entertainers.
This two-CD compilation collects all of the studio duets the pair recorded, and therefore some of the original releases aren't represented in their entirety. The first eight tracks were recorded for Decca with large orchestras in the late 1940s and early 1950s and give a promise of greater things; the singing is fine, the material isn't. The rest of the first disc presents the entire Ella and Louis 1956 session is much better in execution for a couple of reasons. First the songs are much better"Cheek To Cheek" is a small classicand the accompaniment by pianist Oscar Peterson and his trio (joined by drummer Buddy Rich) ups the swing ante considerably. Fitzgerald and Armstrong sound positively ebullient together, scatting and swinging their way through tunes by Gershwin, Berlin and Duke Ellington, and other well-known material, proving that putting two gifted performers with the right backing and the right song will create a magical song.
Ella and Louis Again, recorded the following year is even more of the same: a double album that brought the same team together (with Louis Bellson replacing Rich). However, only about two-thirds of the original record is here, since portions of it were recorded as solo artists. Still, Granz was canny enough to know not to monkey with a good thing, and in some ways this collection of songs is even better than the first, with absolutely terrific versions of "Don't Be That Way" and "Stompin' at the Savoy." "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is a perfect use of the format, even if it's hard to imagine the two of them ever getting into a serious argument about anything. "Autumn in New York" may be the best thing the two ever recorded, a beautifully tender readind with a nice trumpet solo to boot.
Four tracks from Porgy and Bess, which has always been overshadowed by the other two releases, give a taste of the whole album through four of the best songs: "Summertime," "I Got Plenty of Nuttin,'" "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" and "It Ain't Necessarily So." In fact any of these songs could have appeared on the other two releases and not sounded out of place. Porgy and Bess may have been one of those projects where reach exceeded grasp, but it did result in some nice renditions of classic Gershwin songs.
The Complete Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Studio Recorded Duets captures some of the finest vocal work of the past century. Completists will want to get the original releasesparticularly Ella and Louis Again, which isn't hard to findbut many will be satisfied with this collection, which compiles a great deal of the work from the original releases.
Tracks: CD1: You Won't Be Satisfied; The Frim Fram Sauce; Dream a Little Dream Of Me; Can Anyone Explain; Necessary Evil; Oops!; Would You Like To Take a Walk; Who Walks In When I Walk Out; Can't We Be Friends?; Isn't This A Lovely Day?; Moonlight In Vermont; They Can't Take That Away From Me; Under A Blanket Of Blue; Tenderly; A Foggy Day; Stars Fell On Alabama; Cheek To Cheek; The Nearness Of You; April In Paris. CD2: Don't Be That Way; They All Laughed; Autumn In New York; Stompin' At the Savoy; I Won't Dance; Gee Baby Ain't I good To You; Let's Call The Whole Thing Off; I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm; I'm Puttin' All My Eggs In One Basket; A Fine Romance; Love Is Here To Stay; Learnin' The Blues; Summertime; I Got Plenty Of Nuthin' Bess, You Is My Woman Now; It Ain't Necessarily So.
Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald: vocal; Louis Armstrong: vocal, trumpet; Bob Haggart's Orchestra; Sy Oliver and His Orchestra; Dave Barbour and His Orchestra; Oscar Peterson: piano; Herb Ellis: guitar; Ray Brown: bass; Buddy Rich: drums; Louis Bellson: drums; Russ Garcia and his Orchestra.