Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Zardi's (Verve/Universal)

 |   |  1 min read

Cry Me a River
Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Zardi's (Verve/Universal)

Last year was Ella's. It was the centenary of her birth in Virginia and 21 years after her death.

Between those two points the great Ella became one of the most sophisticated, classy and convincing jazz singers of all time, one who could get as deep inside a lyric as Frank Sinatra, could improvise in a scat style like the best instrumentalists and was a role model, a civil rights activist and collected awards as much as she collected fans.

Her discography is vast – albums with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others – and the songs covered everything from Broadway and the blues to the Beatles, the Great American Songbook (with which she is synonymous), spirituals and bossa nova.

For a decade of her recording career from '56, she was on the Verve label and last year the company undertook a major reissue programme which included her vocals with new instrumental backing by the London Symphony Orchestra.

But right at the end of last year came this previously unreleased album from February '56 which is exactly how you want to hear her: live with a small ensemble on classic songs (some of which she had yet to record in the studio). Among them are a beautiful treatment of Tenderly, Cry Me a River, her scatting through In a Mellow Tone, A Fine Romance, a swinging double tempo How High the Moon, taking a request for Gomne with the Wind which the band has to find in their memory and her making up the words, Lullaby of Birdland and, yes her signature song, A-Tisket A-Tasket.

This was an historic recording for a number of reasons, it was her first live recording (Zardi's famous club was in Hollywood, both sets are on the disc) and would have been her first for Verve with which she'd just signed.

That it went unreleased for so long is odd because it captures her at one of her many peaks, is punctuated by her humorous asides and -- because of the 21-song set list -- is also an excellent, single disc starting point for those wanting to discover this remarkable woman.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

JOHN SCOFIELD INTERVIEWED (2008): Has guitar, will travel . . . and travel, and travel

JOHN SCOFIELD INTERVIEWED (2008): Has guitar, will travel . . . and travel, and travel

Looking back now it is hard to recall how it all started and who we should blame – but suddenly in the mid-70s there they were, electric guitarists spitting out notes faster than shells from... > Read more

JOE LA BARBERA PROFILED: Counting the beats

JOE LA BARBERA PROFILED: Counting the beats

For some reason - perhaps because they work in a loud profession - you expect drummers to shout. Few do, and while Joe La Barbera may have started his career in the appropriately named... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

PAINTING BY PIANO (2014): The art music of Henry Wong Doe

PAINTING BY PIANO (2014): The art music of Henry Wong Doe

Rannoch House, on a leafy and secluded street in a central Auckland suburb, houses one of New Zealand's most extraordinary art collections. Open to the public, the house contains works... > Read more

The Ramones: Spiderman (1995)

The Ramones: Spiderman (1995)

Further proof that the Ramones' sound could be applied to almost any kind of B-grade pop and rock (and sometimes genuine platinum sounds) and always coming up sounding like itself. In '95,... > Read more