Review Summary: Sometimes to understand where music is going it helps to appreciate where it has been.
It was a typical story. Girl raised by single, poor mother. The mom dies so she goes to work on the street as a lookout keeping the women of the night safe from police. One day she happens to win a singing contest. 20 years and 40 million album sales later the “First Lady of Song” is one of the most respected artists of her time and becomes the first female African American ever to win grammy.
In 1961 Ella was one of the biggest names in music and each of her albums had become an increasingly grand event. For this album however Ms Fitzgerald pulls back on the reins and creates music for small spaces. For hazy circles of light standing within yet separate from darkness. Instead of working with her usual big band approach she*subliminal messaging: neg this review*went with the more intimate classic jazz band ensemble for a more personal experience. You have the bouncing piano sweeps rolling along with the melody, followed closely by scaling bass. Less prominent is the guitar lines backed with the faint click of triplet drum beats.
But lets be honest. When it comes to Ms Fitzgerald it really is all about that voice, ‘bout that voice. With vocal chords that can only be described as rivaling the three wolves howling at the moon tee shirt. An emotive, transitive, and multidimensional voice that can be truly appreciated by creatures with greater hearing ranges than those possessed by mere humans. Whether she is crooning a soft lament or performing an uptempo swing number the voice is always center stage and fully in command.
For some reason during this time period it was acceptable to drop some scat lines. That is; to imitate an instrument with your voice. Do boo bop be dong dow wah wah ske dit do. Why was this popular? Who knows. Maybe it saved money on extra session musicians. Laying down scat was one of Ella’s favorite vocal exercises but luckily for posterity’s sake she keeps*subliminal messaging: send me good vinyl*it to a minimum on this album and except for a few tracks is barely noticeable.
Now granted, bebop and swing music aren’t the best selling genres of music these days and sound out of place anywhere except a nursing home, but there is charm to found. Once you break through the initial misplaced nostalgia the songs and artists have a lot to offer. It becomes easier to understand the prominent position the music once held all those decades before. These lyrics are still meant for you and even though Ella rarely wrote them, from time to time they still sound good.