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Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) - live at the Concertgebouw in 1961

Introduction by Norman Granz





Won’t You Please Let Me In (played by the accompanying quartet*) [9.07]

Too Close for Comfort (Larry Jerry Bock, George David Weiss and Larry Holofcener) [2.46]

On a Slow Boat to China (Frank Loesser) [2.22]

How Long Has This Been Going On? (George and Ira Gershwin) [2.49]

Heart and Soul (Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser) [4.05]

You’re Driving Me Crazy (Walter Donaldson) [4.05]

That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer) [3.40]

Lover Come Back To Me (Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II) [2.08]

My Funny Valentine (Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart) [3.36]

I’ve Got A Crush On You (George and Ira Gershwin) [2.37]

Lorelie (George and Ira Gershwin) [3.19]

Mr Paganini (Sam Coslow) [4.45]

Mack the Knife (Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht) [4.04]

Saint Louis Blues (W.C. Handy) [7.00]

Ella Fitzgerald (vocals)

Lou Levy (piano) *

Herb Ellis (guitar) *

Wilfred Middlebrooks (bass) *

Gus Johnson (drums) *

Rec. live at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam February 10th 1961.


One thing must be said right from the beginning and that is readers should not expect from the title that Ella Fitzgerald might have been singing with the world renowned Concertgebouw Orchestra (as I will admit I fondly imagined). True she is/was singing at the Concertgebouw concert hall but not with the famed orchestra but with the very gifted quartet of Messrs Levy, Ellis, Middlebrooks and Johnson. In fact they show their considerable mettle immediately in their concert warm up offering – the nine minute Won’t You Please Let Me In? This is brilliant ensemble playing, smooth intuitive, relaxed with marvellous solos from Lou Levy (piano) and Herb Ellis (guitar) with cracking bass and drum support.

To explain the mission of the album publishers – Fondamenta Devialet. This release comes under their heading ‘The Lost Recordings’. They maintain that their ‘ambitious project is to bring back to life exceptional recordings on the verge of extinction’ using advanced technology to ensure the very best sound in restoration. This is the fifth release in this series.

This live concert recording was made in 1961. By then Ella Fitzgerald had released her Songbooks albums dedicated to Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin. In 1961 Ella embarked on a European tour that included: Berlin, Belgrade, Munich and Paris as well as Amsterdam. Her easy, relaxed vivacious style, so often witnessed when she performed in front of a warm, appreciative audience, is communicated vividly on this album.

Her opening number, Too Close for Comfort had her swinging easily and stylishly as she warned herself, ‘…be wise be smart, behave my heart…’ she really feels the words, every one of them. And she does so on that slow boat to China; she’s lovingly seductive and determined to melt her man’s heart of stone. Then comes one of my favourites – the Gershwin’s How Long Has This Been Going On? She’s amazed, pensive and innocent, so sincere you believe every sentiment right from the start when he puzzles, ‘I could cry salty tears, where have I been all these years…?’ This non-failing sincerity shines through so many numbers including Heart and Soul, Lover Come Back to Me and, in spades and with touching sentimentality and pathos in My Funny Valentine. She is very witty and naughtily seductive in the Gershwins’ siren song, Lorelie (‘…swimming in the Rhine, her figure was divine…and I wanna be like her’). Then there is the fascination of her Latin Rhythms singing for You’re Driving Me Crazy in which she exercises vocal gymnastics and sings a portion of the song at an incredibly fast speed but with lyrics all intelligible. These vocal gymnastics are in full evidence in the final two numbers: Mack the Knife and finally, Saint Louis Blues. In the latter, Ella is absolutely magnificent. Her seemingly breathless vocal contortions would easily rival those of any coloratura soprano; they just have to be heard to be believed.

Ian Lace


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