This is rare in my experience – a pedestrian album by Ella Fitzgerald which, I’m the first to agree, sounds like a contradiction in terms. It was clearly originally a vinyl album recorded live at a club in San Francisco in 1968. Norman Granz, who had long been managing Ella at the time, promoted both gig and album and backed Ella with a big band on six of the 12 tracks and the Tommy Flanagan trio on the remaining six.
Like many well established top quality artists, including Sinatra, Ella did her share of dabbling in contemporary material around this time and fails to bring anything new to the likes of Hey Jude or Sunshine Of Your Love. It doesn’t help that she’s saddled by a big band as undistinguished as that of Buddy Bregman, with whom she made her initial Songbook albums (again courtesy of Granz), a band in turn saddled with unimaginative charts.
She is more at home on what would have been side two of the vinyl album where she is backed by the Flanagan trio, excelling on titles like Alec Wilder’s Trouble Is A Man, and Burt Bacharach/Hal David’s lovely ballad A House Is Not A Home, as fine an example as any of how a phrase can be twisted; it was originally used as the title of Polly Adler’s ghost-written autobiography. Adler, a notorious “madam” used “house” as a synonym for the infamous brothel she ran between the wars in New York. When the book was subsequently filmed Bacharach and David provided a title song which maintained that a house that lacked love was not a home.
Hey, Jude; Sunshine Of Your Love; This Girl’s In Love With You; Watch What Happens; All Right, Ok, You Win; Give Me The Simple Life; Useless Landscapes; Old Devil Moon; Don’cha Go Way Mad; A House Is Not A Home; Trouble Is A Man; Love You Madly (45.42)
Fitzgerald (v) with, tracks 1-6, Ernie Heckshure Orchestra (no personnel listing), tracks 7–12, Tommy Flanagan (p); Frank De LaRosa (b); Ed Thigpen (d). Venetian Room, The Fairmont, San Francisco, October 1968.
MPS Music, no number