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4.8 out of 5 stars
Pure Ella: The Original Decca Recordings
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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I recently came across this CD in my local store and debated taking it home. With 94 Ella Fitzgerald CD's in my collection already, I need another Ella like I need a hole in my head. But when I noticed that it contained the tracks she made with Ellis Larkins on piano, I said "What the heck" and took it home anyway.

I might not have bothered; had I checked first I would have realized that the exact same tracks, in the exact same sequence, occupy disc three of the four-disc boxed set "Ella: The Legendary Decca Recordings". That's the problem with re-issue anthologies for someone as prolific a recording artist as Ella - there is always the danger that you already have the all or most of the material they contain.

But I never regret purchasing more of Ella Fitzgerald. These tracks are particularly interesting, as they were made right before her most fruitful and celebrated period, the "Song Book" sessions she did for Norman Granz on his Clef (later known as Verve) label. The idea of having Ella backed with just a piano was sheer genius, and one of the few correct things that Decca did for her during her years there. Ellis Larkins provides her with sympathetic accompaniment on these sessions, and she responds in kind. The Decca producers have long claimed that Ella was not "wasted" during her Decca period, as many critics and fans have complained. I am of the opinion that her Decca years were almost a complete waste, with these wonderful tracks a glorious exception. Her other Decca recordings seemed to concentrate on novelty numbers, and when she was given material she really deserved, the arrangements tended to be either overly commercial, or obscure her delightful voice. Decca has been very, very bad about releasing vintage material - I wish I had a dollar for every musical artist I have on a Decca vinyl whose material has not yet made it to CD, and Ella is no exception. Decca has yet to release quite a few of her original Decca recordings; all we get is anthology after anthology that tend to present the same material over and over. This is not the way they should be treating the female vocalist who made more records than any other female vocalist. Many people are not aware that Ella Fitzgerald is the third most recorded vocalist of all time. I was not surprised to learn that Frank Sinatra made more records than she did to occupy the #2 spot, but I am still floored to know that Bing Crosby officially remains the #1 recorded vocalist of all time.

Anyway, the music here is quite marvelous, as there is hardly an obscure song on the whole CD, and certainly not a single bad performance, either. It's hard as always with Ella to pick out a standout, but for my money, I'm Glad There Is You, My Heart Belongs to Daddy, How Long Has This Been Going On and Someone To Watch Over Me are the clear winners.

Just a few years after these sessions her career was to be guided by Norman Granz, who became her personal manager as well as her producer (for both records and concerts) and that is when her career, which had been languishing at Decca for years, really took off. But these tracks are the very best of her Decca years.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This truly is PURE ELLA, no strings or brass, just her voice and the piano.
The perfect recording for a dinner party or an evening sitting by the fire.
This selection of rarified show tunes, many by the Gershwins, are given the royal treatment by Ella and her sublime and swinging pianist, Ellis Larkins.
You can't go wrong with this CD.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 1998
Format: Audio CD
If you are in love with Ella's voice then this is the cd for you. Solo vocals are backed quietly by Ellis Larkins on piano, who is the model of an accompanist whose only interest is making the singer sound good. One of the most amazing and soulful voices to ever grace this planet.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I've never bought a CD in which I liked every song on it.....until now. If you love the hypnotic, pillow soft and meditative reverberations of Ella Fitzgerald's wonderful voice this is the CD for you.
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52 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Be careful that you are ordering the right Ella Fitzgeral CD. There is another outstanding Ella Fitzgerald CD by almost the same name that is very different. It is called "Pure Ella: The Very Best of Ella Fitzgerald," and it is the best Elle Fitzgerald ever made.
So don't accidentally order this CD thinking you are getting the other one.
This very enjoyable CD shows a nice side of Ella with the Piano and Gershwin songs, and would make a nice addition to your collection. But it would not be one of my first three choices by Ella Fitzgerald. My first choice would be the other one: "Pure Ella: The Very Best of Ella Fitzgerald," released in 1998.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This CD is what is left when all of the preservatives, chemicals, and other unneeded stuff is boiled away. Ella's voice and the piano weave in and out among each other, complementing one another while supporting at the same time. Ella sounds clear and unhurried, as if this were the soundtrack for a lazy day in a hammock. Vibrant, expressive, not taking herself too seriously but emoting 'till the cows come home. She swings, but it's a subtle swing that fits with the relaxed tone. An excellent complement to any jazz collection.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2001
Format: Audio CD
The first 8 numbers were actually ELLA 's first LP.At the time for those old enough to remember LP's were shorter,it's going to change in 1955.That album was actually a prelude to ELLA's massive GERSHWIN songbook of 1959.You always can tell if a singer is good if he is only back up by a pianist,such is the case here and ELLA was indeed a wonderful singer capable of putting her voice againt all sorts of arrangments.The other songs were in a 1954 lp and what a great choice of material that was:2 early SAMMY CAHN songs;superb versions of STARDUST and MY HEART BELONGS TO DADDY who are alone worth the price of this cd of great interest to all ELLA FITZGERALD fans.From now on, NORMAN GRANZ will take the singer's interests ,even if a contract was never signed between them, which proves how one respected the other.If you should buy only one ELLA not in the songbook collection,this is the one.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2004
Format: Audio CD
The year is 1950 or 1954. Imagine that you're inviting an emerging star to sing for you at a dinner party. The singer is the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald. The result might have been this -- "Pure Ella", just her and pianist Ellis Larkins with his trademark feather touch. In a few years from then, Ella re-did most of these tunes for her "Songbook" series, when her voice was -- and that's remarkable -- clearer, sounding like a young girl's, when she was already in her early 40's. Anyway, what we have HERE is Ms. Fitzgerald in a relaxed, soothing mode with no frills. Her pure and ripe voice will stroke and caress you and you'll be glad you can listen to this CD... The highlights include "But Not For Me", "I've Got a Crush On You", "I'm Glad There Is You" and "Until the Real Thing Comes Along", as for Larkins' artistry, suffices one listen to "How Long Has This Been Going On?"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Ella Fitzgerald really DID sell her songs without even trying; she was a consummate entertainer whose career spanned several decades. Ella could lead her adoring audiences wherever she wanted them to go; and Ella Fitzgerald will forever remain one of the greatest American entertainers ever.

The CD track set features twenty songs Ella recorded while she was under contract at Decca Records; and it's all heavenly. Ella's vocals remain squarely in the spotlight throughout the CD. The first eight tracks come from the Ella Sings Gershwin 10" record album and the remaining 12 tracks were recorded for different releases. "Someone To Watch Over Me" starts the track set; Ella sings the rarely heard opening verse to enhance this classic ballad. Ella's voice, light and clear as a bell, massages "Someone To Watch Over Me" to perfection. Ellis Larkins plays the piano just right to accompany Ella. Wonderful! "But Not For Me" continues in the same vein of love ballad; Ella sings beautifully of how she is alone while she wants her one true love. Ella's interpretation is so flawless that once you hear her perform "But Not For Me" you will be convinced that Ella's rendition is THE definitive interpretation of this ballad. Ellis Larkins performs a sublime piano solo in the middle of this ballad, too.

"How Long Has This Been Going On?" features Ella starting the ballad at the top of her vocal range which we didn't always experience in Ella's later years. Ella sings soulfully about the perfect love affair when all the stars in all the heavens are in perfect alignment. "People Will say We're In Love" gets a jazzier arrangement with Ella picking up the tempo to infuse this ballad with a style all her own. "People Will Say We're In Love" playfully deals with the idea of a new love; and the jazzy rendition reflects this attitude very well. Great! In addition, "Makin' Whoopee" gets the royal treatment from Ella as she sings this to perfection. Ella scats just a very little bit to enhance this number; and Ellis Larkins on piano also bolsters this number very well.

"Imagination" features Ella at her best once again; and Ellis Larkins plays piano to perfection. Ella's vocals are, once again, are placed squarely in the spotlight and this works very well. "My Heart Belongs To Daddy," of course, has that double entendre; Ella sings of how she loves her father--and her one true love as well. Ella's excellent diction makes this a great rendition of "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" that swings very gently with a slower than usual tempo that gives the number extra punch! Ella scats a little to showcase her timeless ability to perform vocal gymnastics as easily as breathing.

The track set ends beautifully with "Nice Work If You Can Get It." Ella does this Gershwin tune better than any of them ever could; her voice handles these lyrics so gently and this creates an elegant effect. What a strong ending for this album!

The liner notes include an essay by James Gavin; and the song credits are provided, too. The picture of Ella on the front cover reflects good artistic judgment.

Ella Fitzgerald gives a stunning performance on this CD comprised of tracks from more than one record album. Ella never sounded better as a ballad singer; and the very little bit of scatting she performs reminds us of what was to come in her very jazzy later years. I highly recommend this for any fan of Ella's; and people who enjoy classic pop vocals will not be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
"I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella sing them." ~ Ira Gershwin ~

"It's a song recital that is one of the most rewarding experiences in the history of jazz recording. The secret of Ella's alchemy is that the more you hear her, the more surprised you are with each surprise. It's like a Christmas stocking that's never empty, that's always full of new wonders." ~ Nat Hentoff ~

If you want to listen to Ms. Ella singing about her love affair with the Great American Songbook, then this CD is just perfect for you. This collection offers the most remarkable songs by the Gershwin Brothers and the rest from Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cahn & Chaplin, Van Heusen & Burke, Parish & Carmichael, among others. It's an intimate setting with only a piano accompaniment by Ellis Larkins just what the First Lady of Jazz ordered. She wanted to get "that personal feeling." Indeed, she sings these cherished jewels with elegance and emotional flexibility that shows her personal feelings and sincerity to every song.

My highlights include some of Gershwin's musical treasures that Ms. Ella deliver so beautifully and Ellis Larkins' piano accompaniments are so pleasing to the ears: "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "Soon," "I've Got A Crush On You" and "How Long Has This Been Going On?"

Even without the embellishments of a full orchestra to back her up, Ms. Ella still glows in all her renditions accompanied only by the elegance of Ellis Larkins' piano playing. The rest of non-Gershwin highlights are "I'm Glad There Is You," "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" and "Stardust."

Ella Fitzgerald maybe gone and missed but her music will always live. She will always be remembered as the First Lady of Jazz. Her music was once enjoyed by my late parents and now I'm enjoying it, too. Her music will be enjoyed by every generation as long as there are music lovers who appreciate the standards at its best.

Timeless music by a timeless jazz diva.
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