Ella Fitzgerald = Ella Fitzgerald, Newport Jazz Festival Live At Carnegie Hall July 5, 1973 – Columbia Records/ Pure Pleasure 180-gram 33⅓ audiophile vinyl (2 LPs) KG 32557 *****:
(Ella Fitzgerald – vocals; Tommy Flanagan – piano; Keeter Betts – bass; Freddie Waits – drums; Joe Pass – guitar; Ellis Larkins – piano; Al Grey – trombone; Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis – tenor saxophone; Roy Eldridge – trumpet; The Jazz At Carnegie All-Stars; The Chick Webb Orchestra)
Ella Fitzgerald recorded “A-Tisket A-Tasket” with the Chick Webb orchestra at the age of eighteen. Stardom ensued and never receded. She would become the greatest jazz singer of all time. Her vocal prowess and musical intuition made her a legend. A peerless vocalist – “The First Lady Of Song” recorded for nearly six decades. In the latter stages of her career, she never relinquished her eminent status.
The concert, an afternoon matinee of the Newport Festival, appears to be divided into four parts on the LPs. Side 1 is devoted to the dynamics of Fitzgerald’s quartet (Flanagan, Betts, Waits and Pass). The opening number, “I’ve Gotta Be Me”, avoids the usual theatrics, and brings a smart jazzy swagger to the piece. “Good Morning Heartache”, long associated with Billie Holliday, is exquisite in vocal nuances. A hypnotic lower register, vocal trills and extended notes are delivered with ease. Her versatility is featured on a duet medley with Joe Pass, “Don’t Worry “Bout Me/These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)”. Guitar and voice are entwined, interacting as musical instruments. Side 2 begins as a retrospective of the Chick Webb collaboration. The trademark “A-Tisket A-Tasket” is an amalgam of peculiar techniques, including “little girl” voicing. In the hands of a lesser talent, this song would be inane. With her flair, it becomes an improvisational coup. For perhaps the greatest scat vocalist of all time, “Smooth Sailing” is a joyous testament. Legendary jazz pianist, Ellis Larkins, is featured in three duets. His walking piano style ingratiates “You Turned The Tables On Me” with a brilliant solo. Their chemistry is evident on the Cole Porter standard, “I’ve Got A Crush On You”. Crisp exchanges and rhythm breaks transform this into a Fitzgerald standard.
Emphasizing the expertise of the various musicians, Side 3 gives them the spotlight. In the spirit of festival community, The Chick Webb Orchestra is joined by guest instrumentalists. Al Grey electrifies “I Can’t Get Started” with a spirited trombone run. Roy Eldridge’s trumpet is elegant and textured as the band explores a melancholic “Stardust”. Finally, a twelve-minute jam on Ellington’s “C Jam Blues” treats the audience to Big Band swing at its best. The final album side highlights the artistry of Ella Fitzgerald. Another medley, “Taking A Chance On Love/I’m In The Mood For Love” offers warm joyful vocals with tempo segues that are engaging. “Some Of These Days” breaks away from the Sophie Tucker vaudeville arrangement. In its place is a breezy jazz-infused version, showcasing the heart and personality of the beloved singer. At the end of the set is a plaintive rendition of “People” that becomes a personal message to her audiences…then and now.
The re-mastered 180 gram LPs capture both the intimacy and sonic detail of this concert. Fitzgerald’s voice is presented with clarity and precision. The vocal inflections have a soft resonance, and the mix between singing and instrumentals is balanced. Liner notes by Irving Townsend are concise and convey the significance of the event without maudlin pretense. The set arrangement (produced by John Hammond) shines a light on the entire career of this jazz icon.
Side 1: I’ve Gotta Be Me; Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable To Lunch Today); Medley: Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me/ These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You); Any Old Blues
Side 2: A-Tisket A-Tasket; Indian Summer; Smooth Sailing; You Turned The Tables On Me; Nice Work If You Can Get It; I’ve Got A Crush On You
Side 3: Medley: I Can’t Get Started/ The Young Man With A Horn/ ‘Round Midnight; Stardust; C Jam Blues
Side 4: Medley: Taking A Chance On Love/I’m In The Mood For Love; Lemon Drop; Some Of These Days; People
— Robbie Gerson