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Ken Burns Jazz: The Definitive Ella Fitzgerald

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Album Review

With cooperation from the Verve and Columbia Legacy catalogs, the Ken Burns Jazz series on CD individually spotlights the musical excellence of 22 jazz originators whose careers and influence are explored in Burns' PBS documentary Jazz. It's quite a stretch to compile the roughly seven-decade career of Ella Fitzgerald in 18 tracks, though this collection does an admirable job. The highlights start in 1938 with the Chick Webb Orchestra on "A-Tisket A-Tasket" and "Vote for Mr. Rhythm," and continue with one track from the '40s ("Flying Home") and eight tracks from the '50s (including her essential interpretations from the great American songbook and a duet with Louis Armstrong). The disc concludes with highlights from the early '60s, including "Mack the Knife," "How High the Moon," and "Shiny Stockings," a Count Basie date on Verve. While it's impossible to sum up the history of Ella on a single disc, the highlights on Ken Burns Jazz should make the novice listener interested enough to continue searching out more material. Taken in that context, this compilation performs its function; however, it contains nothing for aficionados.

Biography

Born: April 25, 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...
Full Bio