The Complete Piano Duets
Where do you start with Ella Fitzgerald? There are hundreds of albums – including dozens of very good compilations. You could start with her duets with Louis Armstrong – sure. Many people do. And fair enough. There are her songbook albums – where she showcases the work of some of the finest early 20th Century American composers. And, really, there are so many studio albums across the 1950s and 60s – many of them fantastic, almost all of them worthy. Even some of her 70s output is great – I’m a huge fan of hearing her tackle Sunshine of My Love for instance. It isn’t Someone To Watch Over Me. But it is still something.
Well here’s a nice place to start – this collection, a double CD, collects all of her duets that featured just her voice and a pianist. A great medium for Ella, a wonderful celebration of the song.
And if you’ve visited many of these songs before then this could also be just as nice a place to finish up, taking, as it does recordings from right across the Fitzgerald catalogue – and from various labels (Pablo, Decca, Verve) including the full Ella Sings Gershwin (1950) and Songs In A Mellow Mood (1954) both with pianist Ellis Larkins and 1960’s Ella Fitzgerald Sings Songs From “Let No Man Write My Epitaph” featuring Paul Smith on the keys.
You get so many staples – and there’s such a way Fitzgerald had with a standard. Whether Makin’ Whoopee or Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable To Lunch Today) there’s something special about the way Fitzgerald sings the line, and the space between her and her accompanist. Also, for someone so associated with lightning-speed scatting, which, dazzling though it was, sometimes felt like a pat the head and rub the tummy magi trick, it’s really something to hear her settle in on a song like Stardust – being a storyteller first and foremost.
Something to enjoy over your own Black Coffee, a perfect Sunday morning starter or the fireside companion for winter nights ahead; whoever and wherever you decide to enjoy this it’s 43 songs over two and a half hours – and it’s exquisite.
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