"Our Love Is Here to Stay".
Ella Fitzgerald with Louis Armstrong - compilation
By no means does this CD contain all of the Gershwin that Ella and Louis recorded together for Norman Granz, nor is it entirely an Ella/Louis album. Rather, it is a hopscotch yet nevertheless unified sampler of the Verve Gershwin archive, ingratiatingly programmed so that Ella and Louis sing together, trade off solo renditions, and remind us of their inimitable personalities at all times. All three albums that Ella and Louis made together are represented - the richest lode of Gershwin, Porgy and Bess, is summarized in a mere four cuts - and Ella's George and Ira Gershwin Songbook and Louis Armstrong's Meets Oscar Peterson round out the original sources. While the backing ranges in size from the intimate Peterson quartet to the lush forces of Russ Garcia and Nelson Riddle, Granz's distinct, dry recorded sound unifies the package; the set ends with a galaxy of horn legends backing a wildly improvising Ella in a live 1957 take of "Oh, Lady Be Good." Nothing rare here - everything has been reissued on CD in multiple editions - but it's nice to have these tracks in one compact package.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
I guess I blame rock & roll. Over the last twenty years, I've tried time and again to appreciate the emotional flow of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's interpretation of Porgy and Bess. And though I dig bits and pieces, it's always the same general response: no go.
Now, after some thought, I believe my aural myopia regarding what's widely considered a stone classic likely stems from the events of the era in which I initially heard it - the late Seventies. At that time I was dubious of musicals and leery of opera. The work of both artists had given me goose bumps though; There's no denying the delirious effervescence of Fitzgerald's "A-Tisket, a-Tasket" or the glorious hokum of Armstrong's "Big Butter and Egg Man". But Fitzgerald's meticulously groomed, in-character reading of "My Man's Gone Now" contained elements of contrivance I wasn't willing to swallow. Ditto for Armstrong's "Bess, You Is My Woman Now". What Armstrong biographer Gary Giddms calls "uniquely autumnal" in Armstrong's voice, I heard as disappointingly studious. It was sad to hear a pair of ebullient musicians so , restricted by their roles.
Perhaps the staid effect I heard has to do with what another Armstrong biographer, Laurence Bergreen, says in his assessment of Armstrong's Verve work. Speaking of the esthetic goals of Norman Granz, producer of Porgy and Bess, Bergreen says that the mission was to elevate [jazz] to the status of art in opera houses and symphony halls.
Something was gained in the process - jazz gained stature in the eyes of critics anil cuftists, who were delighted that musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Art Tatum were getting the respect they deserved. But something was lost - the fun and spontaneity or jazz were in danger of disappearing amid the musical mastery. One of the traditional charms of jazz was its lack of pretension, its come-as-you-are approach to music.
Of course, I'm all for musical mastery, and there's a load of it on Porgy and Bess. Indeed, Bergreen allows that Fitzgerald and Armstrong "brought special poignancy and charm" to the opera's "melancholy harmonies". Artists should submit to an arrangement's mandate, no doubt. But I also agree with what Bergreen says between the lines: Some of the performances on this jazz chestnut arc just a little too stuffy.