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Jukebox Ella: The Complete Verve Singles, Vol. 1

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Album Review

Signed by Norman Granz to Verve, the label he hoped to build around her, Ella Fitzgerald inaugurated her long association with one of the greatest jazz imprints by recording a four-song session in 1956 intended for singles. Though it was simply a dry run for her first "official" work, The Cole Porter Songbook, she kept the singles market in mind during her time at Verve, recording occasionally and always hoping for a pop breakthrough. Though singles-chart success never arrived (her "Songbook" full-lengths were much more popular), Verve's release of the two-disc Jukebox Ella: The Complete Verve Singles, Vol. 1 proves that much excellent material went onto her Verve 45s. To Ella, nearly every song represented an opportunity for interpretation, from Gershwin's standard "But Not for Me" (a songbook title also released on single) to the tossed-off novelty "Hotta Chocolatta"; she never sacrificed a close reading simply because the song wasn't intended for a jazz fan. While these titles do occasionally reveal the influence of the novelty, there is so much care exhibited by Fitzgerald and her accompanists (including Buddy Bregman, Nelson Riddle, Marty Paich, Paul Weston, and Russ Garcia) that the results rival much of her non-songbook work for the label. One of the best is a re-recording of her early hit "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" with Ella going into controlled childish tantrums never equalled in her discography (and, thus, in no other's). Other intriguing novelties include singles (and usually accompanying flips) dealing with live recordings, Christmas songs, foreign-language recordings, and the bossa nova (including "Star Dust" taken in rhythm). Only one acknowledges rock & roll, the mostly unembarrassed "Ringo Beat." Whether it's W.C. Handy's "Beale Street Blues" or Moe Koffman's "Swingin' Shepherd Blues," Ella treated a song with respect.

Customer Reviews

Jukebox Ella

The songs don't have the right label - when is this going to be fixed?

Jukebox Ella

During sessions for Ella's albums including the massive songbook series Ella would also record pop singles for play in the jukeboxes which was the norm back then, and after a few months of rotation the novelty wore off and the song was forgotten. Sad really because of the excellent production and Ella's fine voice. While the alternate arrangements of some of her standards featured as album tracks peak my interest, especially the Christmas singles, I find the throw away sides fascinating. Multi tracking vocals was in it's infancy during the time period all of these songs were recorded; Patti Page and Mary Ford utilized the process in the bulk of their recordings. Ella experiments with this process quite well and delivers a beautiful three block harmony on " We Three (My Echo, My Shadow, And Me)." The level of production on these songs is as excellent as if they were album tracks and "Ringo Beat" was written by Ella herself as a tribute to the Beatles drummer. The mastering of this set is incredible and the songs are so well preserved. There was to be a second set of singles released and it was to feature culled album sides as opposed to intended singles as this set. Sadly it hasn't seen the light of day and almost ten years have gone by since this issue so there may never be a volume 2.


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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