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  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook
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Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B00000478A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,472 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

While legends such as Billie Holiday and Count Basie made their greatest impact with visceral, blues-soaked statements, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington succeeded by lending their work unmatched grace and precision. This is a roundabout way of saying that no one is better suited to interpret the Duke than Ella, and the evidence is contained within these three CDs. Discs 1 and 3, recorded in June 1957, feature the support of the full Ellington band and are a complete joy, from Fitzgerald's terrific scat vocal on "Rockin' in Rhythm" through the extended four-part suite "Portrait of Ella Fitzgerlad," which adds Ellington's spoken observations and Billy Strayhorn's piano accents. However, the real highlight is the middle disc, recorded in the fall of that year, which finds Ella fronting a small band boasting Ellington's former tenor star Ben Webster. Most of this disc includes wonderful violin from Stuff Smith and supple guitar from Barney Kessel; the remaining cuts feature Oscar Peterson's trio. Of particular note are the three warming Ella-Kessel duets and the consistently charming work of Webster. By combining big-band and small-band sides, this collection emphasizes the flexibility of both Ellington's songs and Fitzgerald's interpretive powers. --Marc Greilsamer

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 27 customer reviews
Here's your chance to hear why everyone loved her.
John the 19th
Of all the songbooks that Ella Fitzgerald recorded this is one of the very best, I rank it up there with the Rodgers and Hart tribute and the Cole Porter disc.
Marc Flanagan
If you can only afford one Ella songbook set, make Ellington the one.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 21, 2000
Format: Audio CD
A piece of jazz heaven... The level of talent on this set is staggering. Ella is brilliant, for one. Then add in Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and the band, all in great form. Then add a small ensemble that includes Oscar Peterson and Ben Webster. Yikes! Best of all, the pieces fit together beautifully.
Years ago I had the big-band material on LP, which I treasured until someone borrowed it for good. Just getting that music back in excellent-sounding CD was a treat, but the addition of the small group material was a wonderful bonus.
The set also includes some rehearsals and alternate takes. It's fascinating to hear Ella working out a part. She didn't do everything perfectly the first time -- it just seems that way!
This is an embarrassment of riches. Highly recommended.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Here's a newsflash:
1957: Ella Fitzgerald, jazz's best singer, records the songs of Duke Ellington, jazz's best composer. Duke and Ella never sound better. His orchestra is at its most elegant yet at its most swinging, her voice's is in its best form, so harmonically, rhythmically, and tonally sophisticated. Jazz's greatest event is happening. It is "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook," and it is too great to let pass you by.
Alright, this is all true. With Duke's big band behind her, Ella was divine. She was even classier with his suberb small groups. Most of all, it showed both of their eclecticism. Duke was still overlapping rhythms, harmonies, tones, and different musical styles to their most mesmerizing effect. Ella was at her career peak at Verve Records. And for the record: Any of the songwriters she covered in the classic Songbook Series never sounded as awesome. She's the glue that provokes the Ellington Orchestra to outdo themselves once again. Their repertoire of jungle music, unique swing songs, lesser known songs, and more experimental songs is covered, and Ella fits these songs like a lace glove. Part of her incredible genius is her ability to adapt any type of music to her ebullient voice. (On the video of PBS's American Masters special about Ella, listen to her short takes on country and soul in a London Club. Dang!)
In comparison to the rest of Ella's stellar career: "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook" is her peak. It is the centerpiece in her career's greatest period at Verve Records and the landmark Songbook Series. Of all of them, it's the most jazz-oriented. All of her Songbook albums are first-rate, yet this is the best.
And it's also a taste of heaven, too good to let pass you by when you're alive.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By K. Swanson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2010
Format: Audio CD
I love Ella's Songbooks, especially the Rodgers/Hart, Cole Porter, Berlin, and above all this Ellington meeting.

The best meets the best right here, not only the whole band and Ella but also the trio sides on disc 2; Webster and Fitz fit perfectly, and to my ears are the only near-equal to the Billie/Prez duo in vocal/saxdom. OP is insanely great as always, and displays ears of gold in his accompaniment. And of course when the entire, incomparable Ellington ensemble is in full swing, with perhaps the finest jazz voice of them all floating above, that's about as close to jazz heaven as one can ask for.


I think this cd package is a real ripoff. My vinyl of these sets sounds warmer than these remasters, and cost much less than half as much many years ago. The extra cd of outtakes is indeed interesting but nothing you'd want to hear over and over, unlike the first two discs. All three for 51 is outrageous in my estimation, not because the music ain't superb, but because the record company is keeping most of that money!

Ellington's and Ella's estates are getting miniscule royalty rates on these songbook sets, yet the prices are far above the average jazz cd sets. It's not as if these were specialty items in small press-runs; Verve has one of the most reliably-moving catalogs of all jazz cds, especially the Ella stuff. To compare, the three-cd Bill Evans Village Vanguard set is 20, as are many other fine collections of the best jazz. 10 a disc seems fair; 17 does not, especially when one of the discs is outtakes.

I truly love this music, and have since I first heard it in the 70s as a kid.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By DANIEL MC BREARTY on November 14, 2003
Format: Audio CD
This set is about as good as it gets. Most of it is Ella with Duke's band, and as you'd expect everything is A1. The arrangements are stellar, the solists complement Ella to perfection. The opening reeds on "I got it bad" make my hair stand on end every time. There is also some beautiful small group stuff, notably with Ben Webster and Stuff Smith, which also swings like hell. (Squatty Roo, Cottontail ...) Finally you get a lot of outtakes of Chelsea Bridge ... OK, it's filler stuff to some, but some of us find it interesting to hear how Duke would fine tune the sound of the band as he went along ...
The packaging sucks (those irritating cardboard sleeves where you can't get the bloody CD's out properly) ... but hey ... jewel cases are cheap ...
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