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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Labels: My Soundtrack