The First Lady of Song had perhaps the purest tone in recorded history. While not as eccentric as Billie Holiday, Fitzgerald is always a joy to listen to.
- Ella Sings Gershwin (1950) A-
- Always a pleasure to hear one of the greatest singers of all time. Especially when she’s singing Gershwin.
- Songs in a Mellow Mood (1954) B+
- Ella is a fantastic singer. However, I much prefer her arrangements to be lively and energetic. Mellow Mood is a minor release in her extensive catalogue.
- Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook (1956) A
- Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Anything Goes” is one of the catchiest songs of the decade, combining an all-time vocal performance with some of the wittiest lyrics ever written by the legendary Cole Porter. This is a very long LP, and Fitzgerald’s ability to keep things lively for two hours and eight sides of vinyl is, quite honestly, one of the most outstanding achievements in modern musical history.
- Ella and Louis (1956, with Louis Armstrong) A
- Two of the most legendary jazz singers of all time finally team up on record for a fun and fiery set. Not to mention fascinating. The LP is full of popular standards (chief among them “Moonlight in Vermont,” “April in Paris” and “Stars Fell on Alabama”), but the real pleasure is just basking in the magnetic stage presence that these two legendary performers bring together. A dream pairing.
- Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Songbook (1956) A-
- The source material isn’t as strong as its predecessor, but that doesn’t stop Ella from delivering a peak performance. Likewise, her Buddy Bregman-led backing orchestra is among the best accompaniment she’s ever had. Plenty of great songs here. Typical of Rodgers and Hart, the best song will always be “Blue Moon.”
- Ella and Louis Again (1957, with Louis Armstrong) B+
- Again? So be it. But there’s an all-too-noticeable lack of trumpet.
- Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook (1957) A-
- Another songbook, another two hours plus of Ella Fitzgerald. Only this time she has the all-star accompaniment to match: Billy Strayhorn, Oscar Peterson, Paul Gonsalves, Dizzy Gillespie, etc, etc., etc. and, of course, Duke Ellington himself.
- Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook (1958) B+
- The eerie, sultry, haunting, mysterious “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” is Ella Fitzgerald’s single greatest song. Considering that Irving Berlin was Tin Pan Alley’s single greatest songwriter, it’s a real surprise that the rest of the album is largely inessential.
- Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook (1959) A
- Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook is the longest — and best — of all her classic Tin Pan Alley adaptations. Standing at a towering three-plus hours, Fitzgerald’s pop masterpiece remains as timeless as it is sprawling.