The First Lady of Song is in top form throughout Ella Fitzgerald - Live in '57 and '63, an entry in the excellent Jazz Icons series. Will Friedwald's detailed liner notes describe the summer of 1957 as a "traumatic" time for the singer (including an onstage attack by a mental patient and a brief, unhappy marriage), but you'd never know it from the gig in Brussels, Belgium that leads off this collection. Filmed in black & white (both picture and audio are terrific, as is usually the case with this series), the set begins not with a bravura swinger but with a languid, deeply expressive "Angel Eyes." Fitzgerald's legendary chops are on display from jump; her control of pitch and vibrato and impeccable articulation are amazing, yet for all her scatting and acrobatic vocal abilities, her performance is never the least bit meretricious. And so it goes, through the finger-snapping "Lullaby of Birdland" and the effortlessly cool "Love for Sale" to the Basie-esque "April in Paris," the tres bluesy "Roll 'Em Pete" (Ella's only known performance of pianist Pete Johnson's 12-bar standard), the relaxed "I Can't Give You Anything but Love" (wherein she does affectionate, spot-on imitations of Louis Armstrong and obscure '40s singer Rose Murphy), and Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," the rousing show closer (featuring trumpeter Roy Eldridge and the great pianist Oscar Peterson, who sit in with guitarist Herb Ellis, drummer Jo Jones, and bassist Ray Brown, Ella's regular accompanists). The second set, again in black & white but this time on videotape, finds Ella and an entirely different band (led by pianist Tommy Flanagan) in a Stockholm TV studio. This one is perhaps a little jazzier than the first; the tempos are faster and the singing a bit throatier, and along with familiar fare like "Mack the Knife," there are three tunes ("Runnin' Wild," "No Moon at All," and Ray Charles' "Hallelujah, I Love [Him] So") that were recorded live only on this one occasion. All in all, another winner from one of the best live jazz series ever produced. --Sam Graham
Jazz Icons: Ella Fitzgerald features Â"The First Lady Of SongÂ" in two distinct performances. The fi rst is the earliest known complete concert of Ella to be captured on fi lm. Shot in Belgium, this 1957 concert has her performing with jazz greats Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Jo Jones and the legendary Oscar Peterson on classics such as Â"Lullaby Of Birdland,Â" and Â"It DonÂ’t Mean A Thing (If It AinÂ’t Got That Swing).Â" The second show is an intimate in-studio performance from 1963, taped in Sweden, featuring Ella backed by a quartet including pianist Tommy Flanagan. Highlights include stellar versions of Â"Mack The KnifeÂ" and Â"Just One Of Those Things.Â"
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