Ella Fitzgerald / Billie Holiday

Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday at Newport

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Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday at Newport presents the naturally intriguing results when Verve paired two sets recorded two days apart (over the 4th of July weekend, 1957) by the two best female singers of the 20th century. Unfortunately, circumstances weren't in their favor, as the combined factors of an unsympathetic band (for Fitzgerald) and shaky health (for Holiday) make these sets just a step below the expected level of greatness. It's unclear how much time Fitzgerald had spent with her trio, though she makes her unhappiness known while trying to jump-start them to a quicker tempo on "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" and "April in Paris." Finally, she gets the band in line, delivering crowd-pleasing renditions of "Lullaby of Birdland" and the terrific scat piece "Air Mail Special," which must have set the park on fire. Holiday, though she would live for two more years, sounds as though she's on death's doorstep, croaking her standards "Willow Weep for Me," "My Man," "Lady Sings the Blues," and "What a Little Moonlight Can Do." Of course, any Billie Holiday appearance is worth hearing, and she brings her world-weary voice to task on the showpiece "Lady Sings the Blues." Though it's far from a perfect set for both singers, At Newport says more about their respective careers than any great show could. [For a special 2000 reissue of Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday at Newport, Verve added six songs from Carmen McRae's set at Newport. As with Fitzgerald and Holiday, McRae also had problems with her set -- the absence of her usual backing trio forced her to begin her performance with an unfamiliar band. Still, it's an excellent, powerful showcase for McRae's voice on highlights like "I'll Remember April" and "Love Is Here to Stay." Also, a 50th anniversary edition of the show appeared in 2007, with a very similar track listing (except it actually featured one less track).]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 1:44 Spotify
2 4:27 Spotify
3 4:28 Spotify
4 2:30 Spotify
5 2:23 Spotify
6 2:26 Spotify
7 2:26 Spotify
8 4:02 Spotify
9 4:34 Spotify
10 7:00 Spotify
11 2:39 Spotify
12 3:10 Spotify
13 3:32 Spotify
14 2:07 Spotify
15 3:02 Spotify
16 3:20 Spotify
17
feat: Carmen McRae
2:44 Spotify
18
feat: Carmen McRae
3:52 Spotify
19
feat: Carmen McRae
2:13
20
feat: Carmen McRae
1:03
21
feat: Carmen McRae
4:12 Spotify
22
feat: Carmen McRae
3:14 Spotify
23
feat: Carmen McRae
2:47 Spotify
blue highlight denotes track pick