Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Sings Ellington

The singer's 1956-7 ducal sessions with Ben Webster, Stuff Smith, Barney Kessel, Oscar Peterson and others get a vinyl reissue


This limited edition (apparently only 1000 pressed) 180-gram vinyl is brought to us by Supper Club, a new series presenting a selection of female jazz singers through the 50s including the likes of Billie Holiday, Dakota Staton, Shirley Horn, Dinah Washington and, here, Ella Fitzgerald performing the Duke Ellington songbook accompanied by The Ellingtonians.

Although Ellington and Fitzgerald were sure to have crossed paths during the 30s, 40s and early 50s, there was never any recorded trace of the pair until 1956 when the two would partner on a series of recording sessions. Ellington wasn’t prone to playing with musicians outside of his tightly knit ensemble but thanks to Norman Granz and his supervision, the Ella-Ellington project had finally grown wings.

As expected, Ellington didn’t have a lot of free time due to his particularly tight touring schedule, so it came down to the capable hands of his musical partner and co-composer Billy Strayhorn to take the lead arranging the “songbook” sessions. In addition to these sessions, there were several small-group dates, which are presented on this LP. Thanks to Granz, a number of star-studded names were added to the line-up including tenorist Ben Webster, violinist Stuff Smith, Granz’s omnipresent pianist Oscar Peterson sharing the seat with Paul Smith, and Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel taking turns on guitar.

Each side features six tracks, including favourites In A Sentimental Mood, Sophisticated Lady, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and Lush Life. This is an impressive series and I look forward to hearing, and discovering, more of the artists they present from the 50s.

(1) Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Prelude To A Kiss; In A Sentimental Mood; Sophisticated Lady; Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin’; I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart; Do Nothin’ Till You Hear Of Me; Just Squeeze Me (But Don’t Tease Me); Azure; Rock In My Bed; (2) Lush Life; Mood Indigo (51.52)
Fitzgerald (v) on all tracks with (1) Ben Webster (ts); Stuff Smith (vn); Paul Smith (p); Barney Kessel (g); Joe Mondragon (b); Alvin Stoller (d). Hollywood, 4 September 1956. (2) Oscar Peterson (p); Herb Ellis (g); Ray Brown. Hollywood, 17 October 1957.
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