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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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ELLA FITZGERALD

In Köln 1974

Jazz VIP 136

 

 


1. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
2. It Don't Mean a Thing
3. Wild Chick
4. The Man I Love
5. Mr Paganini
6. How High the Moon
7. Like a Soft Breeze
8. Some of These Days
9. Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You
10. C Jam Blues

Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals
Roy Eldridge - Trumpet, vocals
Art Farmer - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Tenor sax
Tommy Flanagan - Piano
Joe Pass - Guitar
Keter Betts - Bass
Bobby Durham - Drums
The Rhythm Combination & Brass conducted by Peter Herbolzheimer

 

I expected this to be a concert DVD but it turns out to be a film of a studio recording session in Cologne - possibly for a radio broadcast, with a commentary in German between songs. At any rate, it's a chance to see the great Ella Fitzgerald on DVD when her voice was still in top form. She is accompanied by some old friends, including Roy Eldridge, who not only does a trumpet solo but also shares scat-singing with Ella in I Can't Give You Anything But Love. Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis adds a booting tenor-sax solo. Eldridge and Davis are only on the first and last tracks, which the sleeve information doesn't make clear.

Ella starts It Don't Mean a Thing by illustrating vocally various forms of music - classical, country and soul - before proving that she does have that swing. Peter Herbolzheimer conducts the big band in the first of two of his own compositions (a jazz-rock piece called Wild Chick) while Ella takes a rest.

Ella returns for The Man I Love, accompanied at first just by Tommy Flanagan, although bass and drums enter after the first chorus. Ella plays great tricks with the song, proving that she was a superb jazz singer: improvising like an instrumentalist and inventing a long, very free coda, in which she converses musically with bassist Keter Betts. Mr Paganini is likewise full of surprises, including a quotation from I'm Beginning to See the Light.

How High the Moon is performed unusually as a slow ballad, with simply Tommy Flanagan providing sensitive piano backing (although he has a smoking cigarette in an ashtray on the piano, naughty man!). Ella steps aside again for the big band to perform another Herbholzheimer tune, Like a Soft Breeze, featuring Art Farmer.

The band then accompanies Ella in Some of These Days - although it's hard for a big band to synchronize with Ella's unexpected time changes and daring vocal flights. Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You is more successfully integrated, as Ella is backed purely by Joe Pass on guitar.

The session ends with C Jam Blues, which begins with a false start but then gets into a swinging groove, with Ella showing her adaptability by fitting in with Lockjaw Davis and Eldridge - imitating whatever they do on sax or trumpet respectively. This ensures that the disc ends on a high note.

With a playing time of less than 50 minutes and without all the listed musicians appearing on every track, this DVD is in some respects a disappointment. Yet it can be cherished as giving us the opportunity to watch one of the greatest jazz vocalists extemporising remarkable music as if it were second nature.

Tony Augarde 



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