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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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ELLA FITZGERALD +
ROY ELDRIDGE SEXTET

Live in Stockholm 1957

In Crowd 996688

 

 

1. Announcement by Norman Granz

2. Undecided

3. Embraceable You

4. School Days

5. Lester Leaps In

6. Moonlight in Vermont

7. Bugle Call Rag

8. Norman Granz introduces Ella Fitzgerald

9. Singing the Blues

10. Angel Eyes

11. Lullaby of Birdland

12. Tenderly

13. Do Nothing till You Hear from Me

14. April in Paris

15. I Can't Give You Anything but Love

16. Love for Sale

17. It Don't Mean a Thing

18. Final announcement

 

Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals (tracks 9-17)

Roy Eldridge - Trumpet, vocals (tracks 2-5, 17)

Stuff Smith - Violin (tracks 6, 7, 17)

Oscar Peterson - Piano (tracks 2-7)

Don Abney - Piano (tracks 9-17)

Herb Ellis - Guitar

Ray Brown - Bass

Jo Jones - Drums


 

Who has been the greatest talent-spotter in jazz? My money would be on Norman Granz, who brought Oscar Peterson to world fame and even realised that Fred Astaire would make interesting rceordings with a small jazz group. He also advanced the careers of many jazz musicians by including them in his "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concerts. Perhaps most significant of all, he realised just what an important singer Ella Fitzgerald could be: getting her to record the Songbooks which are classic recordings of the Great American Songbook. Of course, Granz also showcased Ella in many JATP concerts, such as this one in April 1957 at the Konserthuset in Stockholm.

The concert was divided into two halves: the first featuring Roy Eldridge, the second featuring Ella. Eldridge performs Undecided with his usual mixture of vigour and erraticism, playing with gusto despite the occasional fluff. The Oscar Peterson Trio supplies the perfect swinging backing, and Oscar contributes a dextrous solo. Eldridge shows that he can play a ballad with tender control on Embraceable You, then reverts to the powerhouse trumpeter-cum-vocalist on School Days. He starts with equal vehemence in Lester Leaps In but it turns into a feature for drummer Jo Jones, who performs a solo which never seems to change. Violinist Stuff Smith replaces Roy Eldridge for the next two tracks: a heart-wrenching interpretation of Moonlight in Vermont and a fierce Bugle Call Rag, to which Peterson and Ellis add swinging solos.

Then Ella Fitzgerald arrives to sing in a way that underlines why the British jazz critic Benny Green called her "the best equipped vocalist ever to grace the jazz scene". She had perfect pitch, clear intonation, phrasing which used her voice as a musical instrument, and an ability to improvise with ecstatic freedom. Listen, for example, to her ending of Angel Eyes which may give the impression that she is losing her way but she is actually improvising with the greatest daring, which works out just fine. In Tenderly, her voice swings around the notes with melismatic freedom. In I Can't Give You Anything but Love, she imitates Rose Murphy and Louis Armstrong. And note how, in Love for Sale, she runs "anything but true love" into "Love for sale" - using the word "love" just once to bridge the gap. The fact that she could choose Singing the Blues, which had been a pop hit for Guy Mitchell the year before, shows the breadth of repertoire she was willing to undertake.

All the musicians except Oscar Peterson assemble for It Don't Mean a Thing, where Ella scats and several musicians take solos. As at most JATP concerts, it combines musical skill with exuberant excess. Norman Granz announces "No more music" but you wish it could go on forever.

Tony Augarde



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