Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Cocktail Hour: Ella Fitzgerald
Genres: Blues, Jazz, Pop, Broadway & Vocalists
Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Jazz, is less a vocalist than an excellent musician who happens to sing. Her clearly enunciated, supple voice melds effortlessly into any swinging arrangement. The two CDs on this budget-... more »
Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Jazz, is less a vocalist than an excellent musician who happens to sing. Her clearly enunciated, supple voice melds effortlessly into any swinging arrangement. The two CDs on this budget-priced set highlight early Ella as she sprang on the scene in the 1930s, although some tunes ("Darktown Strutters Ball" and "I'm Just a Jitterbug" among them) retain a strong 1920s-era Dixieland feel. On the whole, the tunes project a bouncy, swinging mood that suits Ella's sound to a tee. This comes through especially on "Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance)" and "Vote for Mr. Rhythm." Here, Ella's natural ebullience, rich voice, and great rhythmic sense guide you to an imaginary ballroom of the 30s. If it's authentic swing-jazz vocalizing you're looking for--the real McCoy, as she sings in "It's Foxy"--Ella's your lady: first, last, and always. As with the other Cocktail Hour sets, this one comes with an abundance of music but a paucity of information about it. The set lets the music do the talking. --Wally Shoup
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Oh My God - Bad Ella??!!
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 10/04/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"As a long-time fan of Ella, I was always under the impression that she could do no wrong. I own over 100 CD's of her magnificent vocals and, as a person who was privileged to see her perform live several times during the last 20 years of her life, I can attest to the fact that she had that magic spark right up to the end of her career, and her voice never lost any of its wonderful power or feeling.
For many years I have been complaining that Decca has not seen fit to release much of her early output. For too long, we have seen album after album of the same old Decca sides - her greatest hits, the "Birthday" boxed set, and the "Legendary Decca Recordings" boxed set, among countless others, have all contained the same tracks, over and over. I was beginning to wonder if Decca had any more sides at all in their vaults of Ella, but, as a collector, I kept hoping they would release something besides the same old swing tracks and tired novelty songs.
One day I noticed that this collection, which I'd passed over several times, contained mostly material I had not heard before. Even better, upon perusing the track listing, I found a few songs I was familiar with, but was unaware that Ella had recorded. That sealed it; I bought it and took it home.
Well, never say never folks - I've finally found an Ella Fitzgerald album that I don't expect to be playing again. Ever. It turns out, Ella really can do something wrong. Well, let me rephrase that - Ella has one of the greatest voices of the 20th century, in or out of jazz and pop music, and her singing is almost always brilliant, BUT it turns out that doesn't mean she always made great records. In a phrase, Ella is fine on these tracks for the most part (as she always is) but the songs presented in this collection simply stink on ice.
We get one or two of Ella's most famous novelty numbers (Mr. Paganini and A Tisket, A Tasket) but those appear on virtually every Greatest Hits of Ella Fitzgerald album that Decca ever put out. There are also a few well-known songs, like the great jazz tune Dark Town Strutter's Ball, the ubiquitous pop ballad You Can't Be Mine (and Someone Else's Too), and the Andrews Sister's best-known hit, Bei Mir Bist Du Schon. These selections make the album worth purchasing, not necessarily for Ella's performance (because they do not represent her at her absolute best) but because of the rarity of her recording them at all. However, that's where it stops. By and large, there is a reason why Decca has been hiding these sides for so many years - the songs in this collection are all poorly written, second-rate pop songs, the sort of which Billie Holiday was famous for transforming from back-alley stinkers into the crown jewels of jazz. Except that Ella at this point in her career (she was very young when these tracks were recorded - on the latest of them she couldn't be much more than 25) had not yet hit her stride as the flawless interpreter of popular music we came to expect her to be in the 1950's forward (I finally understand why Billie beat out Ella in Down Beat poll after Down Beat poll in the 1940's). Throughout most of these tracks, the band sounds somewhat amateurish, and Ella herself sounds awkward and insecure. And for the most part, who could blame her? I have never heard of most of these songs, and when it comes to McPhearson is Rehearsin', When I Get Low I Get High, or Wacky Dust, I frankly don't care if I ever hear them again.
If you are an Ella Fitzgerald fan, as many people are, I would not blame you for purchasing this CD in pursuit of being as complete as possible in your acquisition of Ella. But don't say I didn't warn you; with the exception of a few tracks, you'll find that the most marvelous thing about this collection is that is proves once and for all why Ella spent the rest of her career complaining about the material Decca provided her with in her early days.
A bad Ella Fitzgerald collection! Who'd have thought it?