Ella’s Song Is Over, but the Melodies Linger On
There will never be another Ella Fitzgerald, and her death last week concludes a great era in jazz song. Fortunately, however, she was one of the most well-recorded artists in the history of American popular music.
So well-recorded, in fact, that it can be difficult to know where to start in assembling a basic Fitzgerald record collection. Her output was so rich in content and quality that every fan will have special favorites. But here, at least, are a few that should find a place on anyone’s list of necessities:
* 1. “The Complete Songbooks” (Verve). An easy choice, if an expensive one. The 16-CD set includes Fitzgerald’s takes on Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Ellington, etc. If price is no object, this is the foundation for a comprehensive Fitzgerald compilation.
* 2. “75th Birthday Celebration” (GRP), including “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “Lady Be Good” and “Flying Home” as well as dates with Louis Jordan, Ellis Larkins and some lovely, early ballad singing.
* 3. “Newport Jazz Festival: Live at Carnegie Hall” (Columbia), with a re-assemblage of the Chick Webb band and some stunning work with Tommy Flanagan and Joe Pass.
* 4. “Ella Fitzgerald: The Concert Years” (Pablo). Fitzgerald was always more lively on stage than in the studio, and this anthology covers dates from 1953 in Tokyo to 1972 in Santa Monica and, once again, to Tokyo in 1983.
* 5. “Love Songs: Best of the Verve Songbooks” (Verve), the third of a continuing set of extracts from the “Songbooks,” and a superb choice for fans of such classic Fitzgerald ballads as “All the Things You Are,” “From This Moment On” and “I Remember You.”
* 6. “Ella at Duke’s Place” (Verve). Recorded in 1965, a decade after their “Songbooks” get-together, at a time when both artists were at the peak of their powers. Brilliant Fitzgerald renderings of “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” and a roaring, up-tempo “Cotton Tail.”
* 7. “Ella and Louis” and “Ella & Louis Again” (Verve). Summit meetings between the vocal giants of jazz. Uneven in spots--especially for Armstrong--but vital, nonetheless.
* 8. “Ella and Basie” (Verve), with Fitzgerald again revealing her astonishing adaptability.
Finally, it’s worth checking Fitzgerald’s later Pablo releases, especially those with guitarist Joe Pass, as well as “Ella Abraca Jobim,” which demonstrates yet another facet of the remarkable skills of the first lady of jazz song.
With Honors: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver and Charlie Haden were all in attendance last week at a dinner celebrating the achievements of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz’s program, Jazz Sports LA. Over the last year, the program has been active on three fronts: providing music training for South-Central high school students; conducting master classes at the schools, featuring artists such as Hancock, Haden and Gerald Wilson; and providing performance opportunities for high school musicians during Laker games at the Forum.
On Sunday, the Monk Institute’s Jazz West Coast Sextet--which features talented young performers from the institute’s educational outreach program--will perform at Catalina Bar & Grill, with shows at noon and 2 p.m. Other major upcoming items on the institute’s busy national schedule include an appearance by the L.A. Multi-School Band at the Old Pasadena Festival on July 14, and Jazz Aspen at Snowmass, a five-day festival that brings selected students from around the country to hear and study with performers such as Branford and Ellis Marsalis, Clark Terry, James Moody and Jacky Terrasson, July 29-Aug. 10. Information on Monk Institute programs: (310) 246-9059.
Competitions: The 11th annual Cognac Hennessy Jazz Search is accepting tapes for the annual competition, which will take place Sept. 20 in New York City. The grand prize winner will receive $10,000 and an opening spot in the 1997 Playboy Jazz Festival. The contest is open to every style of jazz, from New Orleans to mainstream to fusion. Entries must be postmarked before July 15. For applications, write Cognac Hennessy Jazz Search, 2801 Ocean Park Blvd., Suite JAZZ, Santa Monica, CA 90405.
Around Town: Lynn Dally and the amazing Jazz Tap Ensemble--dancers who truly understand the rhythms and the spirit of jazz--appear at the John Anson Ford Theatre Saturday in two events: a 10 a.m. show for young people and an 8 p.m. concert performance. . . . The B Sharp Quartet opens the Summer Jazz series at the UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood tonight. The performance begins at 6:30; admission is free, but seating is limited. Information: (310) 824-6365. . . . JazzAmerica’s jazz master class series begins its third season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The faculty includes Buddy Collette, Gerald Wiggins, Ndugu Chancler and others. There is a $25 registration fee, but no deserving student will be turned away for lack of funds. Information: (213) 957-5113. . . . The superb Brazilian singer-songwriter Gilberto Gil is at the House of Blues on Sunday night.
On the Radio: NPR’s “Jazz From Lincoln Center” examines the art of the jazz arranger Tuesday at 11 p.m. on KPCC-FM (89.3). . . . Marian McPartland hosts trumpeter Jon Faddis on “Piano Jazz,” Thursday and next Friday, also on KPCC.