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

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The Great American Songbook

Avid AVC 906




1. Have You Met Miss Jones? (Have You Met Sir Jones?)
2. You Took Advantage Of Me
3. A Ship Without A Sail
4. To Keep My Love Alive
5. Dancing On The Ceiling
6. The Lady Is a Tramp
7. With a Song In My Heart
8. Manhattan
10. Johnny One Note
11. I Wish I Were In Love Again
12. Spring Is Here
13. It Never Entered My Mind
14. This Can't Be Love
15. Thou Swell
16. My Romance
17. Where Or When
18. Little Girl Blue
19. Give It Back to the Indians
20. Ten Cents a Dance
21. There's A Small Hotel
22. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
23. Ev'rything I've Got

1. I Could Write A Book
2. Blue Room
3. My Funny Valentine
4. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
5. Mountain Greenery
6. Wait Till You See Her (Wait Till You See Him)
7. Lover
8. Isn't It Romantic?
9. Here In My Arms
10. Blue Moon
11. My Heart Stood Still
12. I've Got Five Dollars
13. It Might As Well Be Spring
14. People Will Say We're In Love
15. Someone To Watch Over Me
16. My One And Only
17. But Not For Me
18. Looking For A Boy
19. I've Got A Crush On You
20. Nice Work If You Can Get It
21. How Long Has This Been Going On?
22. Soon
23. Maybe
Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals
Orchestra conducted by Buddy Bregman (CD1, tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 8-21; CD2, tracks 1-3, 5, 7-12)
Orchestra conducted by André Previn (CD2, track 13)
Paul Smith - Piano (CD1, tracks 4, 7, 22; CD2, track 4)
Barney Kessel - Guitar (CD1, tracks 4, 7, 22; CD2, tracks 4, 6)
Joe Mondragon - bass (CD1, tracks 4, 7, 22; CD2, track 4)
Alvin Stoller - Drums (CD1, tracks 4, 7, 22; CD2, track 4)
Ellis Larkins - Piano (CD2, tracks 14-23)

This is more like it! The second of three albums by Ella Fitzgerald that I have received for review avoids the faults of the first one (e.g. making a poor selection) and instead gives us the whole of Ella's recordings of the Rodgers & Hart Songbook, plus nine tracks from her versions of Gershwin songs. You also get two songs written by Rodgers & Hammerstein: It Might as Well be Spring and People Will Say We're in Love. The former has lush orchestration by André Previn; the latter simply has accompaniment from Ellis Larkins. Ellis also supplies the backings for the Gershwin songs (the final nine tracks). It's a real pleasure to hear the way that Larkins accompanies Ella: providing discreet prompting but never overpowering the singer. In fact Ellis's recordings with Fitzgerald are among his finest - equalled only by his marvellous duets with cornettist Ruby Braff. Buddy Bregman also deserves a word of praise for his orchestral accompaniments, which support Ella without swamping her.

Ella Fitzgerald's recordings of songs by composers like these actually gave them some well-deserrved exposure and probably introduced or at least vitalised the concept expressed in the album title: the Great American Songbook. Before Ella made these recordings, people were less aware of the body of work produced by Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers & Hart and other great American songwriters. The special quality of Rodgers & Hart was their unique blend of Richard Rodgers' romantic melodies and Lorenz Hart's often acerbic lyrics. To Keep My Love Alive is a notable example of Hart's biting irony, callously enumerating the number of husbands that a woman has murdered "to keep my love alive". And I Wish I Were in Love Again has such glorious lines as "The conversation with the flying plates" and "When love congeals, it soon reveals The faint aroma of performing seals, The double-crossing of a pair of heels". Ella's good nature conveys these words without any sense of malice. For these songs and many others, Ella gives us the often-neglected introductory verses which add much to our enjoyment.

Throughout all 45 tracks, Ella's intonation is perfect and she interprets every song with clear understanding but without any of those tricks that lesser vocalists use to convince us they are jazz singers. Ella doesn't have to justify herself: the evidence is clear on her manifold recordings. Her apprenticeship with Chick Webb's orchestra matured her natural talent into a thing of beauty - and these tracks are a joy for ever.


Tony Augarde


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