Recorded in 1963 and released in July of the same year on the Verve label (and then later in 97 where there were extra tracks) this is Ella Fitzgerald and the Count Basie Orchestra with Quincey Jones being responsible for the arrangements (Fitzgerald later worked with Jones on the 1989 “Back on the Block”) and with production credits going to Norman Granz . Ella and Basie had worked together previously on just one occasion on the 1957 record “On the Sunny Side of the Street”.
Let me say that the first thing I thought when listening to this hi-rez version from High Res Audio was how spot on and modern the recording was and I’m becoming a bit of a convert of this digital format it has to be said…there’s a real opening up of the sound and soundstage for me.
I’m sure many will know this album and many of the tunes therein. It kicks off with a the Fats Waller/Andy Razaf tune “Honeysuckle Rose” with an absolutely glorious arrangement and Ella’s scat style adding a great touch to the tune. This is big band jazz and whilst it may well be from 1963 it doesn’t seem at all dated and that is indeed true for the rest of the album.
“Deed I Do” is another standard, this time from 1926 with Fred Rose on music and Walter Hirsch on lyric duties. The Ink Spots “Into Each Life Some rain Must fall” comes next and without listing all the tracks and their composers let’s just say that the album is crammed with Jazz standards that will have you singing along with abandon.
Standouts are “Dream a Little Dream of Me” which has an organ (Basie) that could have been recorded yesterday, Duke Ellington’s (et al) “I’m Beginning to See the Light” from 1944 and another Fats Waller tune “Ain’t Misbehavin”…you know them all don’t you!
Actually to pick out a standout from this collection of timeless classics is a bit unfair as there really isn’t a bad tune on here.
Ella’s vocal is astounding with a purity of tone that is as smooth as silk and her occasional scat on this record is terrific. Her vocal is complemented perfectly by the band behind her and whilst clearly a showcase for her voice, the arrangements and musicianship are tremendous. There’s a real power to the music when the musicians are called to give it and yet delicacy too like when the gentle strum of a guitar comes in on “Satin Doll”.
This kind of big band swing has certainly had its heyday but this particular recording has stood the test of time perfectly and I’d argue that it remains as fresh, exciting, dynamic and ‘get up and dance’ today as it must have sounded in the ballrooms of yesteryear.