Ella Fitzgerald – Live at Montreux 1969
The legendary jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald who sprouted from the Big Band/Swing era wasn’t of my generation, but I always liked her. Originally from Virginia, Ella had a satiny voice that had a purity of tone. Like Frank Sinatra, she had superb annunciation, intonation, phrasing & range. It’s what made them legendary performers. Their vocalizing even by today’s standards is admired. At least, by vocalists who understand this skill.
One of Ella’s early hits was “A Tisket-A Tasket,” when she was about 17 with the Chick Webb Orchestra. Webb, who suffered from a deformed spine (hunchbacked) was a terrific band leader & exceptional drummer (“Liza”). He predated Gene Krupa & Buddy Rich. When Webb passed in 1939, Ella took over the band until she went solo in 1942 & began recording many classic songs from the Great American Songbook.
Ella won 14 Grammy Awards among many other awards. Her career spanned (1929-1995). She said in an interview that one of her biggest influences was Connee Boswell (The Boswell Sisters).
This live set was released in 2005 as a DVD but this is the first time on CD/LP. The reproduction is excellent. The Tommy Flanagan Trio starts with tight Ed Thigpen drums, & Frank De La Rosa (bass) followed by the sparkling piano notes of Tommy Flanagan introduces Ella who opens with “Give Me the Simple Life.”
Her enthusiasm comes through her microphone. She always sang with happiness in her vocal flights. Unlike many of today’s female singers, Ella depended on style more than showboating. Ella Fitzgerald – Live at Montreux 1969 (Drops Jan. 20–Mercury/Universal) offers 64 minutes of music at 14 cuts on CD.
Some of the more modern tunes are rendered well (“This Girl’s In Love With You”/”I’m Gonna Sit Right Down & Write Myself Letter” medley). Her energy percolates on “That Old Black Magic.”
Ella’s roll of the dice on modern & some rock tunes is brave & commendable. Cream’s classic “Sunshine of Your Love,” morphs from its original bluesy standard into a raunchy Ella jazz embodiment that smokes. Ella purists may not agree but this was an education in song interpretation by an elder vocal pro. Chaka Kahn, Tina Turner & Janis Joplin had to sit this one out as the senior citizen let loose. Did she “get into it?” She certainly did.
Though a bit out of her comfort zone Ella knew the value of capturing a younger audience. So, it was on to an exhilarating jazzy rendition of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” While not on this set, her version of The Marvelettes’ “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game,” is far better. It better suits her style.
Her sole scat solo “Scat Medley” thrills. Anita O’Day & Mel Torme were excellent as well, but this is quite impressive. Ella is a mouthful of orchestra. Her lip stamina never gets numb since after this she sings “A House Is Not a Home” beautifully.
B&W 1962 image: Globe Photos. CD @ Amazon + Rough Trade + https://www.ellafitzgerald.com/#/