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The Very Best of the Duke Ellington Song Book

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Album Review

For jazz fans, Ella Fitzgerald's Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book is by far the best in her Song Book series. With the cooperation of Ellington himself plus his orchestra, the set turned into one of the most fabulous jazz dates in history, with extended versions of numerous standards — "Take the "A' Train," "Sophisticated Lady," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," and "Prelude to a Kiss." The Very Best of the Duke Ellington Song Book reprises only 12 performances from that date (roughly one-third of the total recorded), so it's strictly an introduction to the greater riches that lie in store for listeners. The compilers definitely knew what they were doing, however — fully half of the inclusions are from the small-group date that may have found Ellington himself absent, but these selections actually function as the best on offer, with Ben Webster leading a talented sextet through splendid readings of "Satin Doll" and "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me."


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...
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