with Riddle Nelson orchestra
recorded at Jan. 1959, Nov. & Dec. 1961
##13-15 not on original LP
Nelson Riddle, whose arrangements were an asset on some of Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook projects, also made two albums with her during 1961: this one plus Ella Swings Gently with Nelson. The singer has rarely sounded better than during this period. For the Swings Brightly set (which gets a slight edge over the other one) Fitzgerald sticks mostly to familiar standards and is particularly memorable on "Don't Be That Way," "What Am I Here For," "I'm Gonna Go Fishin"' and "I Won't Dance." Three slightly earlier "bonus" tracks round out this enjoyable big-band effort.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Reissuing Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson
By the late Fifties Verve was issuing at least three Ella Fitzgerald albums a year, which allowed the label to record her in every possible context. There were live concert performances, ballad collections with strings, several sessions with Louis Armstrong, a Christmas album, a pop-singles anthology, a piano-and-voice duet set with Paul Smith and, of course, the Songbooks. The Grammy-winning Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson placed her in the happiest setting of all: a swinging big band with a solid trio at its core, under the direction of Nelson Riddle. The second in a triptych that included Ella Swings Lightly and Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, it focused on Ella as the unrivaled mistress of swing.
Her association with Nelson Riddle had begun in 1959 with Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook (two tracks from those sessions, not issued with the Songbook, are included here). For the album at hand, recorded in 1961, Riddle provides a rhythm section, brass, and unintrusive strings. The mood is consistently upbeat, but he varies it by adding vibes, a touch of Latin percussion, and occasional muted trumpet and sax obbligatos. Swings Brightly pairs Ella with her favorite type of material: great standards by Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Frank Loesser, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Arthur Schwartz, and others. Most of the songs are like old friends to her, which enables her to relax and let her daredevil imagination fly.
The opening track, "When Your Lover Has Gone", establishes the Fitzgerald virtues immediately: a bell-like tone, perfect intonation no matter how far she reaches, and a girlish sense of delight. In a tune usually sung mournfully, she manages to swing with all her might and still convey a hint of loss. The romantic prospects are more hopeful in Benny Goodman's "Don't Be That Way", which started life as a Goodman instrumental. Years after Mitchell Parish (of "Stardust" fame) and Edgar Sampson added lyrics, the song entered Ella's permanent repertoire.
Two rarer titles give Ella the chance to revisit Ellington. "What Am I Here For?" first appeared instrumentally in 1942, with a creamy Lawrence Brown trombone solo. Singer Frankie Laine later added lyrics, but few artists aside from Ella and Sarah Vaughan have ever sung them. The melody "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" comes from the 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder, for which Ellington wrote the score. A surging jazz waltz, it here features one of Peggy Lee's more provocative original lyrics.
The high point of the set is "I Won't Dance", one of the most ebullient performances of Ella's career. Written by Jerome Kern with Dorothy Fields, Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, and Jimmy McHugh, the song was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1935 film version of Roberta. Ella had recorded it in 1957 as a jaunty duet with Louis Armstrong, but this solo version finds her in an even deeper state of comic despair. Her exasperated cry of merci beaucoup! near the end suggests that she already has her dancing shoes in hand.
"Somebody Loves Me" and "Cheerful Little Earful", the two tunes from the Songbook dates, were initially issued by Verve as a single and later appeared on Get Happy, Ella's singles collection. "Call Me Darling", cut three years later, was released only as an obscure 45 rpm until now.
Throughout this set, her zest and creativity never flag. Richard B. Hadlock in the July 19,1962 down beat wrote:
The way she handles her voice is a joy to hear. As a superb musician whose instrument happens to be her voice, Miss Fitzgerald is without equal. A few may match her fine intonation and technical command, but none combines it with so pleasing a tone and with such excellent taste. It's as simple as that.
The essence of these sides, indeed, is joy - the quality that has made Ella Fitzgerald one of our most beloved popular singers for sixty years. In his original liner notes, Benny Green of the London Observer worried that there might someday be no more great songs left for her to record. Actually, the supply has never run out - but rarely did it yield such an exuberant set of performances as this one.
- James Gavin