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
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.