With cooperation from the Verve and Columbia Legacy catalogs, the Ken Burns Jazz series on CD individually spotlights the musical excellence of 22 jazz originators whose careers and influence are explored in Burns' PBS documentary Jazz. It's quite a stretch to compile the roughly seven-decade career of Ella Fitzgerald in 18 tracks, though this collection does an admirable job. The highlights start in 1938 with the Chick Webb Orchestra on "A-Tisket A-Tasket" and "Vote for Mr. Rhythm," and continue with one track from the '40s ("Flying Home") and eight tracks from the '50s (including her essential interpretations from the great American songbook and a duet with Louis Armstrong). The disc concludes with highlights from the early '60s, including "Mack the Knife," "How High the Moon," and "Shiny Stockings," a Count Basie date on Verve. While it's impossible to sum up the history of Ella on a single disc, the highlights on Ken Burns Jazz should make the novice listener interested enough to continue searching out more material. Taken in that context, this compilation performs its function; however, it contains nothing for aficionados.
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AllMusic Review by Al Campbell