627

New VMEs: Ben Webster and Ella & Louis

David Rickert By

Sign in to view read count
The two most recent Verve Master Editions are similar in that they both feature the Oscar Peterson Trio as the rhythm section and both were originally recorded in 1957. They are also remastered versions of classic albums that deserve a spot in any respectable jazz collection. Here’s why:

Ella and Louis Again
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
1957

It should come as no surprise that the first collaboration between Ella and Louis was so successful that it was quickly followed by a sequel, and 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, 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 complement each other superbly. Make no mistake, this is clearly a vocal album-the only solos are Armstrong’s and they’re few and far between-yet 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 with playful renditions of “Don’t Be That Way” and “Makin’ Whoopie”, two songs 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 Louis (although by this time, Louis was playing solos the matched peoples' 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 pick this one up.

Soulville
Ben Webster
1957

A photograph on the inside of the CD cover shows Webster with his head tilted back, eyelids drooping and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. It’s a great photo, simply because Webster approaches soloing in much the same way. A relaxed and patient improviser who first made his name with Ellington’s band playing one definitive solo after another, the tenor saxophonist really blossomed once he struck out as a solo artist where he wasn’t boxed in by the confines of the big band.

From the very first note, you know that you’re listening to Webster-he possesses a style consisted of sweeping phrases that end with a fluttering vibrato, sometimes using nothing but air-and no tune is ever taken faster than a loping gate. Befitting the title, the first two tunes are blues played with a lot of grease and vinegar, but once we get to the ballads, like “Ill Wind”, Webster creates a mood of beautiful smoky melancholy using only a handful of notes.

Like with the previous CD, the Oscar Peterson Trio provides restrained backing (Ellis getting more space than usual) with Stan Levey added to provide some light stickwork for gentle swing. Of marginal interest is the bonus tracks, which feature Webster at the piano; they’re decent enough boogie woogie, but don’t really fit in with the rest of the set. Soulville is a classic recording from one of jazz’s greatest artists, a romantic and sentimental masterpiece.

Ben Webster-Soulville
Tracks: 1. Soulville 2. Late Date 3. Time On My Hands 4. Lover, Come Back To Me 5. Where Are You? 6. Makin’ Whoopie 7. Ill Wind 8. Who 9. Boogie Woogie 10. Roses of Picardy.
Personnel: Ben Webster-tenor sax, piano on #8-10; Oscar Peterson-piano; Ray Brown-bass; Herb Ellis-guitar; Stan Levey-drums.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong-Ella and Louis Again
Tracks: Disc One: 1. Don’t Be That Way 2. Makin’ Whoopie 3. They All Laughed 4. Comes Love 5. Autumn In New York 6. Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) 7. Stompin’ At The Savoy 8. I Won’t Dance 9. Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good To You? Disc Two; 1. Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off 2. These Foolish Things 3. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm 4. Willow Weep For Me 5. I’m Puttin’ All My Eggs In One Basket 6. A Fine Romance 7. Ill Wind 8. Love Is Here To Stay 9. I Get A kick Out of You 10. Learnin’ The Blues.
Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald-vocals; Louis Armstrong-vocals, trumpet; Oscar Peterson-piano; Herb Ellis-guitar; Ray Brown-bass; Louis Bellson-drums.


Verve on the web: http://www.verveinteractive.com


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues Multiple Reviews Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2017
Read The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants Multiple Reviews The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants
by Nigel Campbell
Published: September 9, 2017
Read Emanem Releases New Music From Late, Great Heroes Lacy And Rutherford Multiple Reviews Emanem Releases New Music From Late, Great Heroes Lacy And...
by John Eyles
Published: September 8, 2017
Read Of Stories, Songs, and Self: Fred Hersch's Good Things Happen Slowly & Open Book Multiple Reviews Of Stories, Songs, and Self: Fred Hersch's Good Things...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 21, 2017
Read The Art (de Vivre) of the Trio Multiple Reviews The Art (de Vivre) of the Trio
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 12, 2017
Read Sven-Åke Johansson's Blue For A Moment Multiple Reviews Sven-Åke Johansson's Blue For A Moment
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 2, 2017
Read "Of Stories, Songs, and Self: Fred Hersch's Good Things Happen Slowly & Open Book" Multiple Reviews Of Stories, Songs, and Self: Fred Hersch's Good Things...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 21, 2017
Read "Mysteries Of The Deep and Binary from Brian (Shankar) Adler" Multiple Reviews Mysteries Of The Deep and Binary from Brian (Shankar) Adler
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2016
Read "Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO" Multiple Reviews Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "Two Sackville Gems: Abdullah Ibraihim's "Ancient Africa" and Oliver Lake and Joseph Bowie's "Live at A Space 1976"" Multiple Reviews Two Sackville Gems: Abdullah Ibraihim's "Ancient...
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: June 2, 2017
Read "Emanem Releases New Music From Late, Great Heroes Lacy And Rutherford" Multiple Reviews Emanem Releases New Music From Late, Great Heroes Lacy And...
by John Eyles
Published: September 8, 2017
Read "Anat Cohen's Brazilian Bonanza: Outra Coisa and Rosa Dos Ventos" Multiple Reviews Anat Cohen's Brazilian Bonanza: Outra Coisa and Rosa...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 17, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.