Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Ella & Louis

Another reissue - on vinyl - for the renowned 1957 session featuring the principals with Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich


The wonderful thing about this record is that you don’t have to be a jazz enthusiast to enjoy it. Similarly, it is a delight for jazz folks who enjoy flawless performances of good standard songs with just the occasional burst of scat singing or trumpet improvisation.

Ella Fitzgerald had a gorgeous voice which took to jazz like a duck to water, and her scat singing often got her out of trouble: like the times she forgot the lyrics of a song – something that Louis could sympathise with as it happened to him 20 years before this musical meeting. These two blend perfectly. Singing duets, singing alone and on the occasions when Louis provides tasty trumpet decoration behind her, it all comes together.

Although the focus throughout is rightly on the two principals, this would have been a much lesser recital were it not for the tasteful, ultra smooth and swinging backing of the rhythm section. Oscar Peterson’s trio with Buddy Rich on drums are never in the spotlight but you know they are there throughout. For a near perfect example of gentle, mid-tempo swing with relaxed vocals from Louis and Ella just try A Foggy Day. For good measure, you also get a flowing trumpet solo from Armstrong.

Variations on the above are on every track. In a five-star review in Downbeat in 1957 Nat Hentoff described this album as one of the very few issued that year “that is sure to endure for decades”. He wasn’t wrong. This reissue comes in an attractive picture-disc format and on 180-gram vinyl. It’s not to be missed – in the unlikely event you have never heard it.

Can’t We Be Friends: Isn’t This A Lovely Day; Moonlight In Vermont; They Can’t Take That Away From Me; Under A Blanket Of Blue; Tenderly (27.09) – A Foggy Day; Stars Fell On Alabama; Cheek To Cheek; The Nearness Of You; April In Paris (27.02)
Fitzgerald (v); Armstrong (t, v); Oscar Peterson (p); Herb Ellis (elg); Ray Brown (b); Buddy Rich (d). Hollywood, 16 August 1956.
Waxtime In Color 59206