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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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ELLA FITZGERALD Vol.5

Lullaby of Birdland

NAXOS JAZZ LEGENDS 8.120774

 

 

 

  1. My Baby Likes to Be-Bop.- Ray Brown orchestra
  2. Robbins Nest. – Illinois Jaquet Orchestra
  3. Black Coffee. – Gordon Jenkins Orchestra
  4. A New Shade of Blues. – Sonny Burke Orchestra
  5. I Hadn’t Anyone Till You. – Gordon Jenkins
  6. A Man Wrote a Song. – Gordon Jenkins
  7. In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down. – Sy Oliver Orchestra
  8. I’ve Got the World on a String. – Sy Oliver
  9. Peas and Rice. – Sy Oliver
  10. Because of Rain. - Sy Oliver
  11. Love You Madly. – Sy Oliver
  12. Goody Goody. – Sy Oliver
  13. Baby Doll. – Sonny Burke
  14. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. - Bobby Orton’s Teen-Acers
  15. Walkin’ by the River. – Leroy Kirkland Orchestra
  16. Angel Eyes. – Sy Oliver
  17. Blue Lou. - Sy Oliver
  18. Melancholy Baby. – Sy Oliver
  19. Lullaby of Birdland. – Sy Oliver
  20. Later – Sy Oliver

These recordings were made 1947 and 1954, when Decca was still looking to Ella to make hit records, but she had in fact changed her career to that of jazz singer under the management of Norman Granz, of JATP fame. In the mid 5o’s, Ella left Decca to record for the Granz VERVE label, they understood what she could do best. That said, there are some good tracks here, for me Ella did no wrong. Things get off to a good start with My Baby likes to Be-Bop, showing that by 1947 she had already mastered the language of Be-Bop. There is some more scat singing on Love you Madly, the Ellington standard and on Blue Lou, a favourite tune of mine.

It seems a shame that nobody at Decca at that time knew how to exploit Ella’s enormous talents, they arranged sessions with top class studio orchestras and fine arrangers, but they seemed obsessed with novelty records. After these records were made Ella went on with Norman Granz to make the Songbook records; one of the best selling series of records ever produced. Each is of very high quality and has stood the test of time very well; Decca had all the ingredients to do this, but lacked the musical direction to pull it off. There are good things here, as there always is with Ella, I liked Walkin’ By the River, Ella delivery is superb as usual and there is some great tenor playing (Lester Young?). Angel Eyes is a very sad tune, but Ella makes it interesting. Blue Lou I mentioned earlier is classic Ella swingin’ and singin’ as only she can. Lullaby of Birdland has an unusual intro. and I could have done without the heavenly choir. This track really shows how Decca missed the point so badly, superb artist, great song, good orchestra, poor result.

Later saves the day to some extent a fine blues has Ella in great voice and there is another good tenor chorus, probably by the same tenor player as on Walkin’ by the River. Definitely not Lester Young, Illinois Jaquet?

This is not the best Ella record you ever heard but it helps you to understand what comes later and at NAXOS prices it is a good buy!

Don Mather

 



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