For those youngsters not familiar with Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996), I quote from Wikipedia: She "was an American jazz singer sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, intonation, and a 'horn-like' improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing." She began her career in the 1930's and hit her peak of popularity in the 1940's through 1970's.
Now, here's what makes this Verve Records collection a little different from the many albums, singles, and box sets that have come before it. It's a hybrid. It's one of those digital concoctions that combines older recordings with new ones. In this case, the album takes some of Ms. Fitzgerald's most-famous recordings, cleans them up, and provides them with lush, new accompaniments courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra. While it's unfortunate the producers do not provide any recording dates, one may infer that the vocals come the 1950's and the LSO from around the time of the album's release, 2017.
The program's only drawback is that as with so many other pop albums it includes only a dozen tracks. That's less than forty-some minutes on a compact disc capable of carrying twice that amount of material. But I'm quibbling to complain when the results are so good.
Here's a list of the contents:
1. People Will Say We're in Love (with Gregory Porter)
2. Someone to Watch Over Me
3. They Can't Take That Away From Me (with Louis Armstrong)
5. I Get a Kick Out of You
7. Makin' Whoopee!
8. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)
9. Let's Call the Whole Thing Off (with Louis Armstrong)
10. What Is There To Say
11. Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)
12. With a Song in My Heart
Favorites? Of course. The opening number, "People Will Say We're in Love," a Rodgers and Hammerstein song, featuring Ella with Gregory Porter, is wonderfully upbeat. Yet that's followed by an even better number, Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me," in probably the best rendition ever given it. Another Gershwin track, "They Can't Take That Away from Me," is made all the more welcome as a duet with the great Louis Armstrong, and for me it's probably the highlight of the program.
And so it goes. Along the way, there are great versions of "Misty"; "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," again with Louis Armstrong that's a delight; and Cole Porter's "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)." Once more, I just wish there were additional tunes. And I wish the booklet insert had said something more about them. Oh, well....
Verve Records, which Ms. Fitgerald's old manager founded in 1956 and which boasts one of the biggest jazz catalogues in the business, if not THE biggest, fails, as I said, to provide any information anywhere about the original recording dates of Ms. Fitzgerald's vocals. However, they do indicate that the LSO accompaniments were probably done in or around the disc's release date, 2017. Anyway, producers James Morgan and Juliette Pochin made the album for Morgan Pochin Productions and Verve Records. Steve Price recorded the LSO at Abbey Road Studios, London, with some additional solo upright bass and drums recorded by Ben Robbins at Umbrella Sound, London.
The sonics are big and clear in a pop recording sort of way. The voices are well integrated with the orchestra, as I've said, and one might be forgiven for not realizing the vocals and orchestra were recorded some fifty or sixty years apart. The LSO, especially, appears dynamic, well focused, and reasonably transparent. It's a pleasurable accomplishment.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: