New Ella Fitzgerald captures superior sound

ELLA FITZGERALD
The Best Of Twelve Nights In Hollywood
Verve (B0013995-02)
★★★★ 1/2

by Joseph Tortelli

The finest jazz and popular vocalist of the 20th century, Ella Fitzgerald has a rich catalog of recordings. “The Best Of Twelve Nights In Hollywood” condenses into a single disc the monumental four-CD “Twelve Nights In Hollywood” released on the Hip-O Select label in 2009. The Best Of collection draws upon 13 tracks from the 75-song box, while adding an exclusive cut in the closing seven-minute version of “Take The ‘A’ Train.” The song selection features Fitzgerald’s first hit “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and later signature “Mack The Night,” her only rock ‘n’ roll era Top 40 chartmaker. The First Lady of Song sings swinging jazz and romantic ballads, and she further diversifies her set with a five-minute “St. Louis Blues” and Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Him So.”

These recordings from 1961 and 1962 capture Fitzgerald at the Crescendo Club in Los Angeles. The disc boasts superior sound because the taping was supervised by Norman Granz for the Verve Records LP, “Ella In Hollywood,” whose tracks are not repeated on the current releases. In this intimate setting, Fitzgerald was accompanied by a West Coast jazz quartet led by pianist Lou Levy with guitarist Herb Ellis, a former member of The Oscar Peterson Trio and respected soloist.

“The Best Of Twelve Nights In Hollywood” provides a snapshot of Fitzgerald’s artistry in a venue that magnifies her abundant gifts. It also glimpses a post-world War II epic, when nightspots played a significant role in popular musical culture.

www.vervemusicgroup.com

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