A star-studded album from legendary Producer, Phil Ramone, pays tribute to one of the most celebrated female vocalists of all time, Ella Fitzgerald. PBS Great Performances Concert Special We Love Ella! A Tribute to the First Lady Of Song. A live concert featuring performances by Natalie Cole, k.d. lang, Lizz Wright, Patti Austin, George Duke, Quincy Jones, Dave Koz, Cyndi Lauper, Ruben Studdard, Nancy Wilson, Wynonna, Take 6. wil start to air on June 6, 2007 as part of PBS June Pledge series.
Covering songs made famous by Ella Fitzgerald is a daunting endeavor, since only Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan challenge her place as the premier female jazz vocalist in history. But the late Fitzgerald inspired and influenced a wide array of talented acolytes--from Natalie Cole to k.d. lang to Dianne Reeves--many of whom gather on this spirited, Phil Ramone-produced tribute to partially benefit the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. Cole, backed by an eager gaggle of call-and-response male worshippers, breathes fun new life into the swingy "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," while Chaka Khan, showcasing the breadth of her range, delivers a transporting rendition of the enchanting jazz blues "Lullaby of Birdland." (The two also team up for a delicious scat-fest on "Mr. Paganini.") If lang is equally transfixing on the ballad "Angel Eyes," it's newcomer Ledisi who steals the show with "Blues in the Night," her expansive soprano often mimicking a muted or full-tilt trumpet, one of Fitzgerald's hallmarks. Performances from Etta James and Nikki Yanofsky also rivet, even if Diana Krall and Hank Jones's "Dream a Little Dream of Me" comes across as a little too sleepy, and Gladys Knight is probably not the best singer for "Someone to Watch Over Me." The album surprises with a live duet ("You Are the Sunshine of My Life") between Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder, recorded at the 1977 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Although it seems tacked on, it doesn't grate nearly as much as Michael Bublé's "Too Close for Comfort," so slick it would put an eel to shame. Skip over that transgression, and turn to the antidote of Lizz Wright's sultry take on the melancholy "Reaching for the Moon," which plumbs emotional depths not even the ever-joyous Great Lady managed to attain. --Alanna Nash