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



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ELLA FITZGERALD & LOUIS ARMSTRONG

The Complete Studio Recorded Duets

Avid AMSC 934

 

 



 
CD1

1. You Won’t Be Satisfied
2. The Frim Fram Sauce
3. Dream A Little Dream Of Me
4. Can Anyone Explain
5. Necessary Evil
6. Oops!
7. Would You Like To Take A Walk?
8. Who Walks In When I Walk Out?
Tracks 9-19: ‘Ella And Louis’
9. Can’t We Be Friends?
I0. Isn’t This A Lovely Day
11. Moonlight in Vermont
12. They Can’t Take that Away From Me
13. Under A Blanket of Blue
14. Tenderly
15. A Foggy Day
16. Stars Fell On Alabama
17. Cheek To Cheek
18. The Nearness of You
19. April in Paris

CD2

Tracks 1-12: ‘Ella And Louis Again’
1. Don’t Be That Way
2. They All Laughed
3. Autumn In New York
4. Stompin’ At The Savoy
5. I Won’t Dance
6. Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You
7. Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
8. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
9. I’m Puttin’ All My Eggs In One Basket
10. A Fine Romance
11. Love Is Here To Stay
12. Learnin’ The Blues
Tracks 13-16: ‘Porgy And Bess’
13. Summertime
14. I Got Plenty of Nuttin’
15. Bess, You Is My Woman Now
16. It Ain’t Necessarily So

 

The Avid label again does us a service by issuing at bargain price this double album, which contains all the studio duets recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The pair first recorded together in 1946 with the Bob Haggart Orchestra (tracks 1 and 2) and later in 1950 (with the Sy Oliver Orchestra - tracks 3 and 4) and 1951 (with Dave Barbour's Orchestra - tracks 5-8).

But the inimitable chemistry between Fitzgerald and Armstrong really started sparking most brightly when producer Norman Granz recorded them in the mid-fifties with the Oscar Peterson Quartet. The small group's jazz backing was just what was needed to make the duets perfect - and unforgettable. Granz also put Ella and Louis together to record Porgy and Bess, and this double CD ends with the four duet tracks from that album. The Porgy session was less successful than its predecessors because it lumbered the duettists with Russell Garcia's cumbersome big band, including a string section.

The eight early recordings are amiable and likeable, with Ella's mellifluous voice neatly contrasted with Louis's guttural vocals and his outspoken trumpet. Joe Bushkin's piano and Billy Butterfield's trumpet prettily embroider The Frim Fram Sauce. Dream a Little Dream of Me is probably the outstanding classic among these early tracks, with Louis' trumpet obbligato shadowing Ella's vocals, and then Ella improvising and scatting behind Louis's vocal. Even at this early stage, the empathy between the two is palpable: clearly enjoying one another's contributions. And there's some lovely trumpet soloing from Armstrong.

However good these tracks are, the whole atmosphere lightens with the arrival of Can't We Be Friends?, with the gently swinging accompaniment from Oscar Peterson's discreet piano, backed by the subtly chugging guitar and bass of Herb Ellis and Ray Brown, with Buddy Rich at the drums (Louie Bellson is the drummer for the first 12 tracks on the second CD). Louis's trumpet is somehow released to sound freer and more eloquent, and the whole session is supremely relaxed.

These superb recordings are so well known that one hardly needs to comment on them. Highlights include Ella's jokey imitation of Louis's growl at the end of Tenderly; Stompin' at the Savoy, where Louis's enthusiasm keeps the song swinging with complete abandon; and the tearaway I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.

If you have never heard these recordings before, rush out and buy this album without delay. Even if you know them well, each track repays continued listening. Hearing them once more, I found myself smiling again and again - with sheer pleasure at the duo's musical expertise and togetherness, Ella's angelic voice and Louis's unquenchable good humour.

Tony Augarde


 



 

 

 

 



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