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Ella Fitzgerald - The Jerome Kern Songbook (1992) Retail CD
While she was on the broad, lofty, sunlit plateau which corresponds with the 'peak' in other singers' careers, Ella Fitzgerald was barely capable of singing a bum note, let alone recording a weak album. However, within the context of that supremely polished, summative exploration of American popular music, the 'Songbook' series, the 1963 entry devoted to Jerome Kern is, in my view, the nearest to an indifferent collection. It should have been a cracker - Kern's constantly surprising refrains, Nelson Riddle's near-infallible sense of the most suitable arrangement, Fitzgerald's peerless, understatedmore… sensitivity to mood and melody. In fairness, had this been the only Songbook that Ella ever recorded, it would still be a fine achievement by any standards. And there are many pleasures here. There is the characteristically subtle and un-obvious ordering of material - for instance, the album begins, aptly, with the relatively little-known but utterly charming 'Let's Begin' rather than the crowd-pleasing 'A Fine Romance' (which comes next) and ends on an unexpectedly low-key note with a desolate rendering of 'Why Was I Born?' There are some moments of pure loveliness unsurpassed in any of Ella's or Riddle's other recordings: just listen to the way they build and round out that exquisite rising phrase in 'I'm Old Fashioned' - " But sighing sighs, holding hands/ These my heart understands ..." However, there is something slightly lacklustre about the proceedings, and certain elements just don't work. For example, Riddle very seldom misjudged pace with any of his collaborators, but the tempo of 'The Way You Look Tonight' - which should have been one of the jewels in Ella's songbook crown - is slow to the point of being funereal. And is it my imagination, or does Ella end 'A Fine Romance' slightly flat? If these are two specific problems, there are others that are less tangible. The album just does not hang together or command your attention as do the other Riddle entries in the songbook series - not just the monumental Gershwin collection but also the underrated 'Johnny Mercer Songbook,' which he arranged for Ella the year after doing Kern. If there is a single underlying problem, it is perhaps that Ella was not in her usual matchless voice for these sessions - there is a breathiness and a dullness of timbre which is certainly not present in her landmark album with Count Basie from July of the same year or, for that matter, in the Mercer songbook recorded towards the end of 1964. In summary, if you're building up a collection of Ella's songbooks, then you won't want to leave this one out. There is an awful lot to appreciate in it both for the seasoned Fitzgerald fan and for those who simply love great tunes, often with excellent lyrics by the likes of Mercer and Dorothy Fields, sung with wit and tenderness. However, if you're relatively new to Ella's work, then my advice would be this: don't start here - experience first the lambent beauty of her work on the Berlin songbook (still, at the time of writing, available as two separate albums) or her definitive interpretation of the greatest songs ever produced in Broadway, in the 2CD set devoted to the songs of Rodgers and Hart.
|3||All The Things You Are|
|4||I'll Be Hard To Handle|
|5||You Couldn't Be Cuter|
|6||She Didn't Say Yes|
|7||I'm Old Fashioned|
|9||Way You Look Tonight|
|11||Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man|
|12||Why Was I Born|
- Ella Fitzgerald - The Jerome Kern Songbook (1992) Retail CD
- 811 x 800 px
- 138 KB
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- 15/04/07 by allcdcovers
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