Wise old impresario Norman Granz edited patter and applause from a superior club date and the result is a well-recorded, relaxed, exciting set of what may be Ella’s meatiest recordings in years.
The First Lady of Jazz here ploughs some new territory with more than her customary grace and facility – there’s fire and bite in this stuff. The album approximates her recent, rather startling Royal Festival Hall appearance, but she’s in better fettle here (not having had to do two complete shows, perhaps.)
Two sides, two moods, just like the show: riding roughshod with a tough big band through simple, effective Paich-et-al charts of the recent pops, or sailing smoothly with Tommy Flanagan’s featherlight, poised piano over fresh ballads and a couple of medium-weight standards.
Both settings show her shedding to a considerable degree her cool, non-committal crooning while retaining melodic inventiveness, ineffable good humour, and infectious high spirits. The old girl’s really getting an edge on it: bittersweet conviction creeps into House and Man, the sheer buoyant beauty of Devil Moon gives me shivers of delight. I must say I was never able to listen to her polished efforts of a decade ago with Nelson Riddle more than once a week; this record I’ve played continually all month.
She unleashes a searing, teeth-setting blues moan several times on side one, where she tackles Beatles & Cream a la Detroit, balancing raw gusto and controlled sensuality. Backed superbly throughout by Thigpen and de la Rosa’s very sure bass, Ella intimates some of her recent, extraordinarily ruminative scat excursions with oom-chukka choruses plucked into the pool of Jobim’s Landscape.
After a long term of perfect neutrality, Ella seems to be developing again, stepping out, digging into lyrics more. By the sound of this, her status remains impregnable.
(e) Hey Jude; Sunshine Of Your Love; The Girl’s In Love With You; Watch What Happens; Alright OK You Win; Give Me The Simple Life (22 min)—(b) Useless Landscape; Old Devil Moon; Don’cha Go ‘Way Mad; A House Is Not A Home; Trouble Is A Man; Love You Madly (25 min)
(a) Ella Fitzgerald (vcl) with Ernie Heckscher Big Band including Tommy Flanagan (pno); Frank de la Rosa (bs); Ed Thigpen (dm).(b) Ella with rhythm trio only.
Polydor 583 737 37s 6d