13 June 2006

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Ella & Louis

Having a young mother who was raised by her grandparents, we grew up listening to both sides of the pop music world — The Beatles and Frank Sinatra. Mom had one Sinatra album I particularly loved, with “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Stars Fell on Alabama” on it. It was the perfect album for quiet mornings and late evenings. When I started my own record collection, I spent years looking for a copy of that Sinatra disc, but never found one.

I was flipping through the record section of Peachtree Salvage one afternoon in 1981, and found Ella & Louis (on vinyl, of course) for $2. I knew who Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong were, but had never really listened to their recordings. It had “Stars Fell on Alabama” and “Moonlight in Vermont,” so I knew it couldn’t be bad.

And that was the best $2 I’ve ever spent. From the moment I listened to the album when I got home that afternoon, Ella & Louis has been on my top-ten list.

Recorded in 1957, Ella and Louis are accompanied by the Oscar Peterson Trio and Buddy Rich on drums — and moments of brilliance when Louis plays the trumpet. The best of the standards are here: “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” … “A Foggy Day” … “The Nearness of You” … “Can’t We Be Friends” … “Let’s Call the Whole Thing off” … “Stomping at the Savoy” … and “Cheek to Cheek,” among others. I tried to narrow it down to three favorites, but I couldn’t.

What makes Ella & Louis so special? Everyone who’s any-singing-one has covered these tunes, after all. What sets it apart is the sheer genius of those two voices together. You’re probably thinking they wouldn’t work together. But, good God, they do. Ella’s voice is angelic, amazing, alive, and Louis’ is full of soul and swing. Their voices complement each other like a great couple complements each other — her perfect voice and his gruff one, her scat and his Satchmo, their perfectly timed back-and-forths. You can tell they had a great time singing together.

Ella & Louis is flirty, vibrant, fun. Every time I listen to the album, I want to dance and sing, and sip champagne under a full moon.

I was twice lucky to see Ella Fitzgerald perform live: once at Chastain Park, with Oscar Peterson accompanying her (and the amphitheater wasn’t even sold out!), and once from the fifth row of the Fox Theater. Her voice was near perfection even in her sixties.

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At 6/13/2006 07:08:00 AM, Anonymous patrick said...

makes sense that you'd like this record since you're flirty and vibrant and fun

At 6/13/2006 08:02:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

Ella & Louis are fantastic together. You're right, you'd never expect it to work but to get all overused, it's sublime.

At 6/13/2006 11:17:00 AM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

I have not listened to alot of Ella, but love Loius Armstrong. I have a greatest hits cd that is great dinner music.

At 6/13/2006 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

PATRICK: Talk about your flirts ...

DALE: You keep scoring points on the music scale. How do you feel about Warren Zevon?

RCofCHS: You cannot live another month without Ella & Louis! I want to see you and Holly dancing on the dock to the CD, so expect a copy this weekend.

At 6/13/2006 08:15:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I hate Warren Zevon so much! I'm kidding, I don't really know a lot about Warren other than the obvious top 40 hit. Maybe I should inspectigate a little closer. You know, when I'm not busy hating him.

At 6/14/2006 09:44:00 PM, Blogger Scrivener said...

I have that album on CD and love it. In fact, I named my oldest daughter after Fitzgerald. If we'd have had a boy, he'd've been called Coltrane.

At 6/14/2006 11:02:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

DALE: I should put together a Zevon mix tape for you.

SCRIVENER: Isn't it an amazing album? I love that you named Ella after Ms. Fitzgerald; no wonder she already has the performing bug. I guess Chloe is close to Coltrane ...

At 6/11/2007 12:31:00 AM, Blogger T-Bird said...

Add another CD to my list taht I need to buy


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