Ella Fitzgerald

Ella and Her Fellas [Decca]

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Anyone who still thinks that Ella Fitzgerald's Decca period was nothing but a big commercial pop wasteland ought to be sentenced to many years of hard labor searching in used record bins for this great anthology from 1957. Thanks to Decca founder Jack Kapp's habit of pairing up his label's performers, Fitzgerald made recordings with an all-star selection of great mid-century musicians, and practically all of their records were concise gems. Louis Armstrong turns up four times here in tracks that prefigure and often surpass their later Verve discs in joie de vivre. There are two irresistible encounters with Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, including their swinging calypso hit "Stone Cold Dead in the Market" and a sly "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The protean arranger Sy Oliver makes a suave singing appearance in "Don'cha Go Away Mad," and Fitzgerald's spare, soulful rendition of "I Gotta Have My Baby Back" with the Mills Brothers stops the show cold. Fitzgerald's other fellas include the Ink Spots, Eddie Heywood, the Delta Rhythm Boys, and as a nostalgic treat, the original Chick Webb waxing of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." The sound, by the way, is un-gimmicky, unfiltered mono -- a compelling enough reason to hunt for this LP.

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