"Ella was famous for actually having an incredible range of voice, perfect pitch and relative pitch [extremely rare outside of Opera.] She popularised classy swing and cool Be Bop scat singing in the 50's and early 60's....but if you really know your Ella....you will know that she enjoyed singing ballards the most. You will also know that there is absolutely no one who can match her depth of feeling on these tunes the way she has here.The Intimate Ella is by far one of, if not, the best of her albums on Verve [her peak years.] Her voice so tender and pure .....so beautiful without being sickly or contrived. She takes a standard ballard and lifts it to a higher place....check out I Cried For You....a fare standard by many [Holliday etc.] Ella brings an emotional honesty and depth to this piece that no one has done since....her inspirational change in key at the end of the song is heart breaking. Ella makes an ok tune sound like aural beauty. Like Ira Gershwin often said about her interpretations of his songs..."I didn't know our songs were good till Ella sang them!"Her version of Black Coffee makes Peggy Lee's redundant... quite frankly Ella's is the real deal. Her versions of I cant give you anything But Love and especially her version of Misty are the difinitive vocal renditions. Forget the other cheesy vocal versions....Ella's voice with an inspired piano accompanying her is so beautiful it almost hurts....the album is one big smooth vibe! Her version of Angel Eyes actually leaves Sinatra's sounding cold and somewhat feeling sorry for himself. [till I heard Ella's only Sinatra could do this tune for me!] Ella's feels purer in intention ....and even more desolate but also more honest. While this LP is often downbeat it is never contrived or moaning. At times Ella touches on a Blues sensibility with a pinch of Gospel and Soul.At the same time this album has a very real and cool feel about it.....this is not just an album to feel sad on your own with. This is an album to chill out late night with friends or for a romantic evening. Without hyperbole it is easily one of the coolest and most impressively enduring Jazz LPs of all time....but it is also an absolute classic pop[ular] album for all. If you highly rate Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, Erykah Badu, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mahalia Jackson and Mary J Blige as female vocalists and you haven't heard Ella on this album your missing out. You'd be foolish to ignore the incredible beauty of Ella Fitzgerald's vocals. No album displays her tenderness, her incredible vocal ability, her simplicity, her velvet timbre and her unfetted emotions like this album. You'd have to be dead not to be touched by this album. Go ahead and buy....you will have and enjoy this music for life! Trust me."
Fernando Silva | Santiago de Chile. | 06/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who say that Ella's singing was pure technique and lacked feeling (especially when they compare her with Billie Holiday) here we have the proof of that statement being absolutely untrue! Ella sings only accompanied by a subtle piano, and you can even listen to her breathing. It's such a creation of her own what she did with this collection of songs, the phrasing, the tempo, her voice at its peak, the sentiment deeply attached to each song (YES; THE SENTIMENT! ). One wishes that she would have done more albums like this one. A SUPERIOR EXPERIENCE."
Ella's Finest Hour
Mark Blackburn | Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada | 03/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Oscar Peterson (still performing in his 80s) recalls a "magic moment" on a bus with Ella Fitzgerald 57 years ago - a bus tour with "some of the greatest jazz people that could possibly ever be mustered at any one place and time." This was back when Oscar's future trio bass player Ray Brown was still married to Ella, and was part of the same bus tour for the legendary "Jazz at the Philharmonic."
"I remember Ella asking (trumpet great) Roy Eldridge if he recalled the way that Billie Holiday used to do this or that tune. Upon which, `Lady Fitz' (as I named her soon after we met) launched into a `Lady Day' version of WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT WILL DO." She glanced around at Herbie Ellis, gesturing for him to get his guitar . . . and out of nowhere Roy uncased his horn, put in the mute, and commenced playing a beautiful obligato to her vocal.
"Our bus driver `Bart' had an intuitive sense (about) such musical `moments' -- and he quietly slipped the bus into overdrive, slowed down, and relaxed in his seat to enjoy the music.
"So here was this Greyhound bus rolling down the Kansas highway, on a picture perfect evening. And there sits Ella in her seat, eyes closed, totally engrossed in making each word of the lyric count to its fullest . . . . Lester Young joining Roy Eldridge in playing soft sensitive lines behind her . . . Ray Brown somehow managing to balance himself and his bass in the aisle -- lending support.
"She sang her heart out, song after song, and we all applauded, grinning in excitement and appreciation, for we all knew that we were part of a very special `musical moment.'
I believe Oscar would agree that this CD -- "The Intimate Ella" -- provides just the sort of magical, musical moment he refers to here.
In 1960 when the "First Lady of Song" was at the pinnacle of her career, Ella flew to Germany to record her legendary live album "Ella in Berlin" (an LP that won TWO Grammys). Ella, like Sinatra, could in a moment, turn weaknesses into strengths: And at this famously recorded live concert, Ella forgot the words to "Mack the Knife" - but without missing a beat, she came up with one of the most beautiful, improvisational `scats' in jazz history.
Later, Ella and her brilliant musical director, pianist Paul T. Smith slipped away to a recording studio in the Netherlands where, alone together, they conjured up these thirteen magical ballads.
This 1990 CD (my copy from an Amazon.com seller is labeled "Made in Germany") was produced with excellent liner notes, translated from the Dutch by one "Imme Schade van Westrum," who reminds us of the musical giants who considered Ella quite simply "the best-of-the-best."
Ira Gershwin is quoted: "I had never realized just how good our songs really were until I heard them sung by Ella." Bing Crosby concurs: "Man, woman or child, Ella is the greatest." And Duke Ellington ranked her "beyond category."
Remarkably, this all-Dutch production sat in a vault for 30 years - apart from one, limited release LP comprising the soundtrack to a long-forgotten film, "Let No Man Write My Epitaph," (a tale of "corruption and drug addiction" in which Ella appeared onscreen with Shelley Winters, Jean Seberg and Burl Ives; Ella pretends to accompany herself at the piano).
In 1960 at this recording Ella was 42; her voice was never more supple or expressively beautiful (or better recorded). And her brilliant pianist, Paul T. Smith reminds us of the distinction between the greatest jazz pianists (like Oscar) and the truly great ACCOMPANISTS - like Andre Previn, or Bill Miller (Sinatra's career-long accompanist, who died last summer in Montreal, while on tour with Sinatra Jr.)
Incidentally as of 2007, Paul T. Smth is alive and well, and living in California -- where he was born in 1922: His 50 years experience as an accompanist began with the Tommy Dorsey band in the 1940s. He moved back to L.A. where, as a studio musician he worked with a "Who's Who" of jazz musicians and popular singers. In 1956 - and for the next 22 years - he was Ella's musical director and trusted pianist . (In those days, Paul T. Smith was so appreciated in Europe, the Jazz Dictionary dubbed him "the greatest pianist from America.")
It's hard to imagine better accompaniment for the woman singer generally considered to be Sinatra's equal in interpreting the Great American Songbook. This CD conveys to your ears - perhaps better than any other of Ella's recordings - the shy intimacy suggested by both the album title - and by Oscar Peterson in his recent autobiography "A Jazz Odyssey" (please see reviews for that book).
Oscar writes: "There were many parts to "Lady Fitz" (as I affectionately named her in 1951) "that I still don't claim to know - although I knew her for over 40 years, and worked with her on-and-off throughout. She was innately shy and insecure, a very private person who remained somewhat enigmatic to even her closest friends."
Oscar Peterson recalls his own, delightful list of "all the little signs and mannerisms that told Ella's accompanists EXACTLY what she was feeling during a performance." His acute memory recalls:
"The first side glance, accompanied by a sort of half-laugh, MEANING: `What was that change or line you just played behind me?'
"The left hand cupped to her ear. MEANING: ` Something's out of tune. Is it me, or the piano?'
"Ella's left hand slapping her hip. (Depending on) the intensity of the slap: If intense, it means Look out! She's getting ready to go for it -- and wants to make sure that you go with her!"
Oscar concludes that "any pianist fortunate enough to have worked with her learned immeasurably -- in terms of timing, and overall musical perception."
To fully appreciate what Oscar had in mind when he wrote those words -- you just listen to this album!
Mark Blackburn Winnipeg Manitoba Canada"
Not just for fans of jazz
Sanne | Denmark | 05/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am not reallly a big jazz fan. Neither am I particularly fond of Ella Fitzgerald's more upbeat recordings, although I find her vocal range and timing impressive, to say the least. However, I love this album. I bought it only recently and now it's among my absolute favourites - never mind that the rest of my collection is more likely to feature Franz Ferdinand, Erykah Badu, U2, Arctic Monkeys, Metallica and Kate Bush than jazz standards.
The overall atmosphere is sentimental and melancholic, yet strangely soothing as Ella's voice intimately caresses each note, accompanied only by a beautiful piano. There is love, pain, loss and joy of a life lived in that voice. It is a mature woman singing, with the yearning and hope of any young girl and the wisdom of an old crone seeping in. But it is not a difficult album to access, neither is it heavy. Just loaded with genuine feeling.
The most amazing thing is that the repetoire here really is jazz standards, and yet they sound poignant and new. I don't find myself comparing the songs in this version to older (or newer) ones while I'm listening, because Ella Fitzgerald manages to make them her own. So I can still enjoy the eerie Tricky/Marina triphop version of 'Black Cofee' because it is two very different songs.
It is not the album to make you go dancing all night. But it is an album that can get you through a night, whether you are feeling sorry, romantic or deeply happy in a quiet way. To me this is music for late nights and for late night thoughts and feelings."