Recorded in Los Angeles, January 8, 1974
A good title cut, strictly by the book.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Perhaps I should disqualify myself from offering any supposedly objective evaluation of a performance by Ella Fitzgerald. My first exposure to her already individual timbre and style took place in the Savoy Ballroom, when she was the bashful teenaged vocalist with Chick Webb's magnificent orchestra at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. When you have been following an artist's career for more than four decades, your responses tend to become automatic.
On the other hand, this in itself is proof of a point that needs to be made about Ella: whatever the setting, at any concert or in any recording session, and almost irrespective of what songs she chooses to deal with, there can be no doubt about the quality of her work; she can be depended on to sublimate the lesser songs and do justice to those that are inherently superior.
No less relevant in any discussion of Ella's recording career is the stimulating diversity of musical settings in which she has been cast. She has been teamed with small groups composed of some of the incomparable virtuosi who are regulars on the Pablo label. The size of her background has ranged from a single musician-Joe Pass and Ella formed one of the more memorable vocal-and-instrumental partnerships of the past decade-to a compact, swinging combo. For the present session the group varies in size: four horn players were present throughout, but not everyone is heard on each track. The kind of informality that prevailed is one that can only be undertaken by artists who are very sure of themselves and thoroughly familiar with one another.
An argument has been advanced by some seasoned observers of the jazz scene that the era of sublimely individual soloists has passed, and that we can no longer expect to find youngster emerging whose sound is as immediately recognizable as that of a Sweets Edison or a Clark Terry, a Zoot Sims or a Lockjaw Davis. In these times when saxophonists plug into an echoplex or pianists into a variety of electronic keyboards, too many of the sounds we hear, these theorists tell us, are reduced to a lowest common denominator. Certainly the accompaniment provided for Ella on these sides offers powerful evidence of the extent to which these men developed their own instrumental voices long before such various artificial aids were invented.
The evidence becomes clear in the very first moments of the opening title track. Harry Edison can play a simple quarter note, repeat it right on the beat a half dozen times, yet anyone who has ever known that inimitable sound will immediately be able to identify him. Ella's own brand of individuality also is enchantingly in evidence as she recreates in her own image a blues written and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939.
Ella, unlike Lady, has never been categorized as a blues singer, though she once recorded an entire blues album (something Billie never did) and is clearly at ease in the traditional 12-bar idiom. Her sudden dip in the melody during the phrase "love will make you do things" exemplifies her use of the sound of surprise. Jaws is in there too, reminding us that the blues, unlike love, is not just like a faucet to be turned off and on; it is a feeling endemic to the nature of certain jazz improvisors.
Joe Pass, listening to a playback of this belatedly released album, said to Norman Granz: "That's not me. That's Irving Ashby." When he finally recognized himself, the usually diffident Pass allowed that this was one of the better things he has done on record, in a blues groove of uncommon rare intensity.
I'm Just A Lucky So and So is a blues-tinged pop song by Duke Ellington. Ella has recorded it two or three times before, originally in 1946 with Billy Kyle at the piano. Always seeking new approaches, she starts this version with the bridge, then uses a quasi-rock beat for the first chorus. The soloists are Sweets on muted trumpet, Clark on fluegelhom and Zoot on tenor. The extended tag, backed by a gradual buildup from the horns, is typically spontaneous Fitzgerald.
Sweets' note-bending and the Pass obbligatos are heard again on Ghost of a Chance. Although Lockjaw used this as one of his featured pieces with Basie, it is Zoot whose laconic sound and laid-back solo take over between vocals.
Rockin' in Rhythm was the first cut on the opening side of Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book in 1958. The present version is looser; again she demonstrates her mastery of the obsolescent art of scat singing. The soloists, in order, are Bellson; Ella with the horns; Ella ad lib; Sweets muted; Tommy Flanagan; Ella; Zoot; Joe Pass; Ella; Clark and Sweets; Jaws; Bellson, and Ella singing a fifth below the melody (or a fourth above, depending on how you listen).
I'm In The Mood for Love reminds us, in the opening passage backed only by Ray Brown, how little support it takes to make her swing (indeed, she has on occasion sung unaccompanied for long stretches and outswung everyone in the house). Bellson's back beat lends a goading rhythmic touch; Lockjaw and Clark are heard from briefly in this workout on the 1935 Jimmy McHugh melody (with lyrics by Dorothy Fields).
Some singers tend to skirt the difficult melody on Monk's Round Midnight; Ella tackles it fearlessly, low notes and all. Ella shares her super-melismatic ending with Lockjaw.
Can't Give You Anything But Love is notable for the scat vocal exchanges between Ella and Clark, and for the muscular chorus by Jaws, the Man I Love builds from a rubato chorus, with typically elegant Flanagan backing, through an upbeat passage backed by Bell son, into a third chorus with full rhythm contingent and Sweets. Bellson and Ella take it out on a note of interacting spontaneity.
Polka Dots and Moonbeams, I suspect, belongs to Ella's background as naturally as it does to that of anyone who came up in the era when Frank Sinatra sang it with Tommy Dorsey or Ray Eberle with Glenn Miller. The Johnny Burke lyrics, with their country dance setting, old fashioned romance and happy ending, are a typical product of that socially innocent era, made viable by Jimmy Van Heusen's timeless melody.
The impression that lingers after a couple of hearings of this album is that after a professional lifetime that has spanned forty years, Ella Fitzgerald is more completely in command than ever-of her voice, her material, her accompaniment. Just as she did back in those remote days when I heard her at the Savoy, Ella manages to deal with every song as if she were singing it for the first time. In or out of jazz, this is one of the most vital yardsticks of greatness in any singer, and it is a quality I suspect Ella Fitzgerald will never lose.