Monday, August 27, 2012

#37: Ella Fitzgerald - Sings the Gershwin Song Book (1958)

It’s fair to say that Ella Fitzgerald is the female Frank Sinatra. What I mean is, while there may be others out there that sing similar songs, both of them have a few things that make them among best in their genre. First, they both have warm, dynamic, and depth in their voices. Second, the bands are second to none – the music behind these wonderful voices provides such complexities and yet it never gets in the way of the star. Thirdly, the arrangers need to take ample credit – these songs have been done a thousand times and yet they keep it fresh and new while utilizing a varying cast of instruments.

Love is Here to Stay
It makes sense why Ella Fitzgerald is an icon. She’s got range, she’s got dynamics, she’s got tone, and she’s got a beautiful vibrato. Love is Here to Stay has always been one of my favorite standards. The band keeps it a little more laid back; the strings add layers of warmth, while the horns add the necessary punch and stabs to keep you on your feet. The solo really impressed me; it’s such a sweet muted horn which really is accented by the rest of the band keeping its full, soft sound.

Sam and Delilah
While the song may have some mid-Eastern sounds to it, it still is clearly a piece of American music. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the music on this track is phenomenal. However, the real reason Fitzgerald is still talked about today is because of her uncanny ability to put the appropriate tone on the right note. There’s meaning behind her singing, she’s not singing words with notes attached to them. There’s a tone in her voice where you can read into what she’s saying and it adds yet another layer to the song.

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Well, it’s official. The entire record is the same thing over and over. Well written music, incredibly solid instrumentation, and a giant cherry on top with one of the best vocalists of her generation. There’s really not much else to say – it’s top notch stuff.

All in all, it all makes sense. After listening to Billie Holiday’s album and having such high hopes crushed – this album redeems the female big band sound for me. While this album is 3 hours long, I’ll be honest – I listened to an hour’s worth of music and called it good. There’s not one artist on this planet I want to listen to for three hours straight. The album is still semi-dated, but if you love Gershwin – then here’s your holy grail. Otherwise, you’ll enjoy this album, but maybe not for three hours straight.

Tomorrow's album: Regina Spektor's Far.

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