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The Best of the Song Books

4.9 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

16 Tracks

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Trying to cull a single-CD "Best of" from the 16-CD set of The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books may seem like a daunting task, but it's also foolproof. The complete set is a monument to the century's greatest songs and, arguably, its greatest singer, and this selection is a series of gems programmed to simulate a Fitzgerald performance, carefully sequencing joyous uptempo swingers and moving ballads. Recorded between 1956 and 1964, Fitzgerald's finest years, the CD includes arrangements by Nelson Riddle, Billy May, and Buddy Bregman, as well as a superb rendering of "I've Got It Bad" with the Ellington orchestra and Johnny Hodges. Balancing the orchestral settings are some intimate small-group performances, including a witty rendition of Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets" and Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." This is an ideal introduction to the "Song Books," a selection so good it will appeal to owners of the box sets. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 21, 1993)
  • Original Release Date: September 21, 1993
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B0000046R2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,548 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 15, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Ella. Billie. Sassy.
They helped define jazz singing; all modern jazz vocalists are indebted to them. Ella is the least blues-infused, but most accessible of the three. Her ability to swing; her tremendous vocal range, impeccable phrasing and scatting; and her silky smooth voice are one-of-a-kind. It's the audio equivalent of a spirited yet mellow Scotch whisky. As others have noted, it's difficult to pick the "best" of her output, but I think, with very few exceptions, this is a tremendous CD for those who don't want to buy the 3-CD or 16-CD (!) box sets.
Of course it helps that, for example, the composers are other one-name wonders: Mercer, the Gershwins, Rodgers, Hart, Berlin, Arlen, Ellington, Porter, and Kern, and that she's backed by the Ellington, Billy May, and Nelson Riddle orchestras. (Buddy Bregman's orchestra is heard on three songs, most notably on "The Lady is a Tramp, and Paul Weston's on one.) Song sequencing is excellent, generally alternating between uptempo orchestral pieces and ballads. She really swings on "Something's Gotta Give" (with an excellent sax solo by Willie Smith) and, especially, "The Lady is a Tramp." The latter song is given the full big band treatment; it's one of the best versions I've heard. Contrast this with the ballad "I Got it Bad (and That Ain't Good)," a heartfelt rendition with an excellent Johnny Hodges solo. "Hooray for Love" (with the Billy May orchestra) is a bit disappointing compared to the high spirits of "The Lady is a Tramp."
We're treated (finally) to Ella's scatting on the Duke Ellington backed "Cottontail," with Ben Webster sounding absolutely tremendous on his long solo. With the wonderful scat and solos, this is one of the best cuts on the album!
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Format: Audio CD
It has been awhile since I have read all of the wonderful reviews for this CD. As the man who chose the songs, sequenced them and wrote the album notes, it is one of the high points of my career that so many of you love listening to this CD as much as I did making it. It was indeed a difficult assignment, narrowing down all the songs from Ella's songbook series to just these, but I hope I put in something for everybody. I agree that as a collection, there is no better representation of the best of singing, songwriting and musical arranging available.
Before I sound egotistical about it, remember that the reason the collection is so good is because Ella Fitzgerald is singing; Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers, Hart, Berlin, Ellington, Arlen, Kern and Mercer did the writing; and Bregman, Riddle, May, Strayhorn and Weston did the arranging.
What could possibly be better?
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Format: Audio CD
While trying to fit the best of Ella on one CD is kind of like trying to tour the Louvre in one afternoon, this CD is a great collection of uptempo and ballad numbers. The Songbook period was a high point in her legendary career, and the first rate songs, vocals and orchestrations on this album bear this out. This album works better than either the Ballads or Love Songs albums, with its mix of fast and slow songs, but all three are worth owning.
'I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm' swings the way only Ella Fitzgerald could do it, 'Bewitched' is perfect, and there are many other gems here. Even if you own the songbook albums, this is a strong collection.
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By A Customer on November 18, 1999
Format: Audio CD
This is a great overview of the Songbook series. So many excellent songs, especially "They Can't Take That from Me," "Something's Gotta Give," and "Love Is Here to Stay." Her strengths are easily apparent on this cd: pitch, excellent diction, simplicity, timing. I never say that Ella was the greatest "female" singer of our time. I think that she was the greatest singer of our time.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Is there any song in the Songbooks that she did not record?

She was the First Lady of Jazz. She was a multi-Grammy awardee. She was a terrific and versatile singer who at one time or another worked with almost all of the jazz giants: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, and the list goes on and on. She was the most prolific recording artist in her time for she has recorded thousands of remarkable songs. She was a melody's best friend . . . the legendary Ms. Ella Fitzgerald.

This is one of the best compilations of the Songbook series. It features a repertoire of 16 classics. The Top Five tracks for me are: Gershwin Brothers' "Love Is Here To Stay," "'S Wonderful" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me"; Irving Berlin's "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm"; Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered." My second choices are: Arlen's "Hooray For Love" and "Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea"; Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye" and The Duke's "I've Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)." Not to mention two Johnny Mercer-penned lyrics, "Midnight Sun" and Something's Gotta Give." These two tracks were beautifully arranged and conducted by the great Nelson Riddle.

This CD is a gem. I highly recommend it. It's a great addition to Great American Songbook collection.
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