Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook

Ella Fitzgerald

Verve, 2022


REVIEW BY: Max Kaplan


Ella Fitzgerald, a canonical voice in the realm of music, unleashes her tones in a way that feels both familiar and completely unattainable on the newly released set Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbookmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 .

From 1958, this recording of a live concert captures Ella just as the jazz world was beginning to explore rock n’ roll and eventually psychedelia. The year 1958 was a particularly special one for Ella, as it was just before she would abandon the overdone standards of her precious Irving Berlin, yet also just at the point where she had developed her technical prowess and stage presence to a level never before heard by audiences. The result is an intimate recording of an intimidating vocalist; Ella takes masterpieces of songs and recites them with an ease reminiscent of a low-key singer that one might find at any piano bar. Not to diminish the skill or the tone with which Ella sings, the comparison is only evident when—in between masterful renditions of Berlin tunes—Ella jokes with the crowd, commenting on how Berlin would be downright upset with the way she was singing.

The set is an unexpected mix of dreamy ballads and bouncing swing numbers. The unexpected part is just how much Ella swings throughout the show on tracks like “Cheek To Cheek,” “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails,” and “Let’s Face The Music and Dance.” Peppered throughout as well are seemingly impossible ballads, including the twisting “Russian Lullaby.” Ella is the perfect crooner for this style, hitting pitches on the nose with a range unmatched by any of her contemporaries. Accompanied by a full orchestra, horns, and rhythm section, Ella’s sound is THE sound of the genre at the time.

For those looking for an entertaining live demonstration of late ’50s vocal music, this is a fair recommendation for any enthusiast.

Rating: A

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