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Returns to Berlin

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 22, 1991
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 22, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Polygram Records
  • ASIN: B00000478M
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,512 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
This was Ella at her best...', yes, we know that talk. But this is really one of the great Fitzgerald concerts. Her interpretations of these songs are so great, I couldn't imagine anyone else doing them so well. On the first song, `give me the simple life', you can hear she didn't bother warming up for the show, but that's no problem as you can hear. After that more of her standard repertoire of those days, `Cheek to Cheek', `Caravan', a funny `you're driving me crazy' (which she sings here in English, but she recorded later in 1961 a version in German... and her pronouncing isn't flawless on that), and a wonderful `anything goes'. The best part of the concert are the songs from `Misty' to the encore. I think she performed Misty best when she was on stage instead of a studio, because I think this version is better than the studio version on `Intimate Ella'. Misty is followed by Mr. Paganini, of which her later May 1961 version became a hit. Then `Mack the Knife', on which she had learned the lyrics this time. As Ella later recalled on an 1968 interview, the reason they did Mack the Knife at first in 1960 was because the man who had booked Ella there asked her to do this popular song. She didn't know the lyrics then, but she thought they could have a ball anyway. And they did! Years afterwards, until the late 60s, Ella was still asked to do this song.
`Round Midnight is a wonderful improvised version, the best she did I think.
Ella does her best scatting on `Joe Williams' Blues', a song she had `written' herself. As her fans know, she started doing the song with JATP in 1956. Then she sang (improvised?) lyrics, referring to Elvis Presley and his `blue suede shoes' and so on.
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Format: Audio CD
I believe that "Ella Returns to Berlin" is simply the best of the live concerts--far better than the concert the year before, in 1960, this concert shows Ella to be more fun, more in command, but just as loved. The concert is eroneously called, "Ella Comes Back to Berlin" by Norman Granz in the introduction. But once Ella takes the stage, there are no more errors--only breath-taking moments of live jazz. "The A-Train"--the Duke Ellington jazz standard--is one of Ella's early numbers, and she scats marvelously. Other scat numbers which defy gravity are "Joe Williams' Blues"--one of the last numbers--and, the encore, "This Can't Be Love." The German crowd goes wild over Ella, and even interacts--"from the balcony, way up high"--during her standard "Mr. Paganini," providing a moment of hilarity which also breaks Ella up into laughter. Oscar Peterson, Lou Levy, Gus Johnson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen, and Wilfred Middlebrooks accompany Ella, and on at least one of the songs--"Slow Boat to China"--you can hear Ella communicating with her musicians: to Herb Ellis: "I hear you Herbie..."; to Lou Levy on piano: "Play pretty for the people, Lou..." Ella revives her famous rendition of "Mack the Knife, whose lyrics she delightfully muffed in Berlin the year before. And there are some ballads which, at least to my ears, sound extemely dark within the context of 1961's Berlin. At the close of the concert, Norman Granz thanks the audience and says he hopes to see them again for the concert in 1962.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Ella's "Mack the Knife" Berlin concert of 1960 has attained a pinnacle place in jazz history that it has become the benchmark for most other live vocal recordings to be judged against. Returning a year later to the same place was a daunting task for Ella and her group. Of course like everyone else in the audience that night, I was curious if Ella could top---or even meet---her performance from a year earlier. Well, no need to fear for Ella meets all expectations and then some! The Berlin crowd, reknown for their sometimes rude behaivor, showed their appreciative applause and roars for Ella. And it's well deserved.
Once again, Ella comes up trumps! She knew the pressure was on her in returning to the same place which gave her much acclaim and glory. Not only is she in great voice and sings with the bell-like clarity for which she is known, but in some instances, SURPASSES her performance from 1960. Of course that concert was defined by Ella's impromptu "wing-it" performance of the single, "Mack the Knife", which went on to become a huge hit for her. Here she sings the track again with different lyrics, perhaps being the only track that falls somewhat short. But in nearly every other instance, you can really hear an inspired Ella as she plays to the crowd and nails song after song.
Special mention must go to the guitarist who is given prominence here. On some tracks it's just Ella and the guitarist you hear, which really adds a sense of intimacy to what must have been a very large concert hall. The song selection shows more variety and range this time. Ella adds a Jerome Kern medley which really melts your heart with its poignancy. Who said Ella can't sing with any emotion like Billie Holiday? This CD certainly proves Ella was Billie's equal in the jazz pantheon. Get this now out-of-print CD and add Ella's unforgettable 1961 performance to your collection. Yes, sometimes things are BETTER the second time around.
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