Does the world need another Ella Fitzgerald collection? Concord certainly hopes so, since they’ve combined with Starbucks (bet you didn’t see that coming) to produce their latest tribute to a musical legend. Love Letters From Ella, which is tagged as celebrating what would have been her 90th birthday, includes ten tracks that are described as “never-before-released love songs”.
Last year I reviewed an album from Concord that digitally combined the singing of Ray Charles with the music of the Count Basie Band. Now – as then – my intent is to concentrate on reviewing the music itself, rather than the process, but I do need to mention that this new Ella release is also “enhanced”, although not as much so. It appears that a lot of this material is reasonably faithful to the original recordings, but the album notes – which are not very detailed – do seems to indicate some tinkering and additions.
But as I said, let’s listen to the music. We know Ella is as good as they get, and these recordings began life in the middle stage of her long career — late 1950’s to early 1970’s. The songs are good choices, the accompaniment – whether it’s Count Basie, André Previn, guitarist Joe Pass or others – is first class, and the blending has been skillfully done. In short, a nice listen.
I love old ballads, and with Ella in full voice the listener is in for a treat. Choices range from the lively sound of “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”, with Ella delightfully backed by the Basie sound, to the plaintive “Cry Me A River”, a song made famous by Julie London but originally intended for Ella. Ironically, the London Symphony Orchestra (which is named for the city, not Julie) is added for backing here on Ella’s version, and the result is a very nice sound.
I very much enjoyed those tunes where Ella is backed by old friend Joe Pass and his strong, soulful guitar. These include “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “The One I Love”. Also of note was Ella’s version of “Our Love Is Here To Stay”, a song I’ve always had a thing for. Here Ella does it full justice, with the help of Previn’s magical piano work.
Overall, a fine collection of love ballads by one of the great singers of our time.
1. Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone (W/Count Basie)
2. Cry Me a River (W/ London Symphony)
3. You Turned the Tables On Me
4. I’ve Got the World On a String (W/ London Symphony & Joe Pass)
6. My Old Flame (W/ London Symphony & Scott Hamilton)
7. The One I Love (Belongs To Somebody Else) (W/ Joe Pass)
8. Take Love Easy (W/ London Symphony & Joe Pass)
9. Our Love Is Here To Stay (W/ Andre Previn)
10. Some Other Spring (W/Count Basie)