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ELLA FITZGERALD with the London Symphony Orchestra
Someone To Watch Over Me

Review by Steve Koenig

Punchline: It’s good, very good.

Q: When is a new Ella Fitzgerald record not a new Ella Fitzgerald record?
A:  When it’s Someone To Watch Over Me.

I was excited when I first read there was a disc of previously unreleased Ella in the pipeline, then dismayed when I received the download only to discover that Verve has taken classic Ella mono Decca and Verve tracks from 1950-61 and overdubbed new orchestral arrangements played by the London Symphony Orchestra.  Four of the arrangements are by the producers, James Morgan and Juliette Pochin, eight others by Jorge Calandrelli.  They are lilting and charming.  There’s nothing to make you think that Ella’s work has been cannibalized merely for profit.  The reason this works so well is the chosen tracks have minimal instrumentation to begin with, and these, and Ella’s vocals weren’t messed with. 

The albums opens with “People Will Say We’re In Love,” turned into a fine duet of Ella with an overdubbed Gregory Porter, their voices blending easily and well.  The fourth track, “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” had her duet with a singer sounding surprisingly like Louis Armstrong.  That’s because it was, indeed, Louis Armstrong.  Armstrong also features in “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.”  The rest of the tracks are just Ella alone with strings brass, and winds (and the original piano, bass, guitar, et cetera).

The upshot: I truly expected to my my sweet Ella mangled, but instead we have a dozen classic Ella Songs, sung impeccably, arranged interestingly but unobtrusively, sequenced for flow.  The 44-minute album is over before you know it, and ready for the replay button.

Lagniappe:  Also released by the time you read this, will be Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong / Cheek to Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings.  Additionally Verve will issue Ella At Zardi's, a previously unreleased live album.  These are all to celebrate Elle Fitzgerald’s centenary.  I wonder what else from the vaults is ready to burst on the scene.
 
ellafitzgerald.com, universalmusic.com/label/verve-label-group/

 



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