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The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books (Box Set)

Ella Fitzgerald

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Album Review

This admittedly pricey — but by all means mandatory — Grammy Award-winning box set is the final word on the "songbooks" recorded by Ella Fitzgerald between 1956 and 1964. In order of their initial release, contained within are Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book (1956), Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Song Book (1956), Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book (1957), Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book (1958), Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book (1959), Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book (1961), Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Song Book (1963), and finally, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Song Book (1964). The audio contents have been completely remastered and each title has been expanded — wherever possible — to include previously unissued material. In terms of packaging, the producers went to extreme lengths to create exact reproductions of all the vintage LP jacket artwork. Even going so far as to precisely miniaturize the entire hardbound text The Gershwins: Words Upon Music that accompanied their 1959 collection as well as the booklet that came with the Ellington anthology. The icing on the cake is the newly created 120-page tome that puts both the eight respective songbooks — and their over 240 musical selections — in proper context of Fitzgerald's luminous career. Readers are also treated to behind-the-scenes insights on the artist's interaction with the veritable who's who of arrangers. Among them are Buddy Bregman, who worked on Cole Porter as well as Rodgers & Hart; the dynamic duo of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn on the Ellington set; Paul Weston directed the Irving Berlin entry; Nelson Riddle was in charge of the George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, and Jerome Kern installments; and Billy May held the baton during the Harold Arlen sessions. There are a few sides that shouldn't be overlooked, especially as they are otherwise or formerly unavailable. Particularly worthy of mention are "You're the Top," "I Concentrate on You," and "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)" from Cole Porter. Plus, a ten-minute rehearsal with Ellington and an alternate of "Chelsea Bridge" from the same. The Gershwin affair yielded an extra version of "Oh, Lady Be Good," while the Arlen catalog produced outtakes of "Let's Take a Walk Around the Block" and "Sing My Heart." As previously mentioned, The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books (1993) received the nod for Best Historical Recording at the 36th Grammy Awards in 1994.

Biography

Born: 25 April 1917 in Newport News, VA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

"The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was arguably the finest female jazz singer of all time (although some may vote for Sarah Vaughan or Billie Holiday). Blessed with a beautiful voice and a wide range, Fitzgerald could outswing anyone, was a brilliant scat singer, and had near-perfect elocution; one could always understand the words she sang. The one fault was that, since she always sounded so happy to be singing, Fitzgerald did not always dig below the surface of the lyrics she interpreted...
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