Most helpful critical review
on April 23, 2015
When I first heard this Norman-Granz-produced album some years ago, I was considerably disappointed, but not really surprised. Ella was, by 1983, long past her vocal prime. Her vibrato had widened, there was often a rasp in her voice, and those once-seamless transitions were ragged.
But with time and repeated hearings, I've had to revise my original evaluation. While hardly showing Ella at her best, this collection isn't a failure. The timbre of her voice remains, on the whole, remarkably youthful. And while she can no longer sing with the abandon she once did, her recognition of her own shortcomings and her efforts to circumvent them result in some remarkably gentle and reflective moments. Also, on occasion, some insightful parsing of the lyrics and clever melodic reinvention that's up there with anything she's done. There's a tenderness to the entire enterprise that's quite endearing.
Previn, always a witty pianist (a very witty man, in fact), contributes quite a few felicitous ideas of his own, though never at the expense of the singer; and, as always, the bassist he has chosen to work with, in this case Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, is among the best.
If I have a complaint about this record, and of course I HAVE, it's that its advertised strength is its weakness. The material is all-Gershwin, all-classic, and all over-performed. It's possible to have too much of anything – even Beethoven's Fifth – and by now, in my sixth decade of living with the songs of George and Ira, I hope I can be forgiven for not feeling quite the exhilaration I felt during my first few thousand encounters with 'A Foggy Day', 'But Not for Me', and 'I've Got a Crush on You'. It would take more than the combined genius of an Ella Fitzgerald and an André Previn to find new and fresh ways of illuminating this repertoire.
Nonetheless, nice work....