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Love Letters: Ella Fitzgerald, Nicki Parrott/Rossano Sportiello & Ed Reed

Jim Santella By

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Ella Fitzgerald
Love Letters From Ella
Concord Jazz

Nicki Parrott & Rossano Sportiello
People Will Say We're in Love
Arbors Records

Ed Reed
Sings Love Stories
Ed Reed

With Valentine's Day coming soon, it's always a pleasure to pick up a collection of romantic songs that have made their impressions in the jazz world.

Ella Fitzgerald gave the world numerous songbooks and memories that will never fade. With Love Letters From Ella, a new compilation of love songs recorded between 1973 and 1983, producers Gregg Field and Jorge Calandrelli show the singer in a slightly different light: strictly mainstream jazz with strings and things moved into the background. Except for the first and last tracks, which feature Fitzgerald with the Count Basie Orchestra in '79, drummer Field and pianist Calandrelli join a select crew by sitting in on selected numbers to merge with the originals. Four tracks with the London Symphony Orchestra, three including guitarist Joe Pass, combine with smaller ensembles to support the singer on romantic songs such as "My Old Flame , "The One I Love and "Take Love Easy . Sure, it's not the singer's best work, but Fitzgerald is in fine form and shows the world her love for a lyric and a comfortable melody. Co-released by Starbuck's Entertainment and Concord Records, the album places Fitzgerald in a mainstream jazz light where she's at ease and interacts with the others intuitively. She's good in every situation but preference should be given to the tracks where she's alone with Pass ("The One I Love ) and with pianist Andre Previn and bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen ("Our Love is Here to Stay ).

Nicki Parrott plays bass and her lovely voice interprets seven of the 16 songs of People Will Say We're in Love, pianist Rossano Sportiello riding high over her accompaniment throughout the session. Together, they make this Valentine's greeting sizzle comfortably like the memories of an old flame as they play favorites such as "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To , "What a Little Moonlight Can Do , "Let's Fall in Love and "Moon River . Rooted in the alto range, Parrott's vocals give a heartfelt impression that convince naturally while her bass playing, based in the mainstream sound of Ray Brown, John Clayton, Red Mitchell and Rufus Reid, keeps the listener glued to the beat. Sportiello, who cites Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Bud Powell and Barry Harris among his strongest influences, brings an easy-loping stride to the session that accentuates the velvet in Parrott's voice. As a duo, they find a common ground and pepper the air with spirit. The bop number "One for Amos , the boogie-woogie Chopin Etude solo piano interpretation, the stride piano of "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me , as well as several blues and a generous portion of ballads means that People Will Say We're in Love with a duo performance this good.

Ed Reed sings 11 familiar songs on Sings Love Stories with the passion of one who's come to know them intimately. He shares his love for the music while sending a message about where we're headed and where we've been. Reed is 78 and grew up in South Central Los Angeles where he had his first music lessons (from Charles Mingus). He sang in the Los Angeles jazz clubs of the time before entering the US Army at 17. Unfortunately, 40 years of drug addiction followed and much of that time was spent in California prisons. He sang in prison groups and had the opportunity to meet Art Pepper and work with him on special entertainment projects created by the warden; from Reed's album, it's obvious these love songs got him through those hard years. With pianist Gary Fisher, bassist John Wiitala, drummer Eddie Marshall and the brass and woodwind horns of Peck Allmond, the singer revels comfortably in his recording debut. Jazz standards such as "Bye Bye Blackbird , "Daydream , "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing and Monk's "Ask Me Now provide a lyrical backdrop for Reed's plea to create a better place in which to live and love.

Tracks and Personnel

Love Letters From Ella

Tracks: Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; Cry Me a River; You Turned the Tables on Me; I've Got the World in a String; Witchcraft; My Old Flame; The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else); Take Love Easy; Our Love Is Here to Stay; Some Other Spring.

Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald: vocals; Jorge Calandrelli: piano; Chuck Berghofer: double bass; Gregg Field: drums; Count Basie: piano (1, 10); Mike Lang: piano (3, 5); Andre Previn: piano (9); John Chiodini: guitar (3); Joe Pass: guitar (4, 5, 7, 8); Neils-Henning Orsted Pedersen: double bass (9); Keiron Moore: oboe; Christine Pendrill: English horn; Scott Hamilton: tenor saxophone (6); Warren Luening: trumpet (3); others.

People Will Say We're in Love

Tracks: The Cup Bearers; Blues for Basie; You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To; You Blew Out the Flame in My Heart; Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love); One for Amos; Revolutionary Etude, Etude in C Minor, Opus 10, No. 12; Moon River; What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Time Was; They Say It's Wonderful; Why Did You Tell Me: "I Love You / I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me; Moon Shadow; The Man I Love; Lost Love Blues; People Will Say We're in Love.

Personnel: Nicki Parrott, double bass, vocals; Rossano Sportiello, piano.

Sings Love Stories

Tracks: A Sleepin' Bee; There's a Lull in My Life; Ghost of a Chance; Bye Bye Blackbird; A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing; Where Do You Start; Daydream; Ask Me Now; If the Moon Turns Green; Goodbye; Motherless Child.

Personnel: Ed Reed: vocals; Peck Allmond: trumpet, tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, trombonium, kalimba; Gary Fisher: piano; John Wiitala: double bass; Eddie Marshall: drums, recorder (3).


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