Duke Ellington / Ella Fitzgerald

The Stockholm Concert, 1966

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After an auspicious beginning with the Chick Webb band and long solo run featuring a celebrated string of songbook albums on Verve (Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, etc.), Ella Fitzgerald maintained her high profile from the mid-'60s onward, mostly by touring the world and -- to a lesser extent -- recording a series of enjoyable dates for Pablo. This informal-sounding, never before released Stockholm concert recording from 1966 shows why Fitzgerald as primarily a live performer is not such a bad thing. Backed by Duke Ellington's orchestra and her own trio of pianist Jimmy Jones, bassist Joe Comfort, and drummer Gus Johnson, she shows off her incredible interpretive skills on a mix of standards heavy with Ellington and Strayhorn classics. Along with a rousing rendition of "Cottontail" (featuring a scatting Fitzgerald and tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves trading fours), there's a pop swinging version of "Satin Doll" and all too rarely heard vocal takes of "Imagine My Frustration" and "Something to Live For." Rounding out the Ellington cuts, Fitzgerald also exquisitely handles '60s fare like Jobim's "So Danco Samba" and Bacharach's "Wives and Lovers." In addition to Gonsalves, Ellington regulars like Johnny Hodges and Cootie Williams also contribute some fine solos. While maybe not as essential as Ella's Verve songbooks, The Stockholm Concert is still a must for any serious Fitzgerald fan.

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