Ella Fitzgerald

Love Letters from Ella

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Observing what would have been Ella Fitzgerald's 90th birthday, Concord and its Starbucks partner raided Concord's Pablo vaults and patched together this somewhat brief (40-minute) collection of outtakes and virtual collaborations, hoping for another synergetic success. Ella is in fine late-period (1973-1983) form (some shakiness in the later songs aside), the remastered sound is big and razor-sharp, and the material is impeccable. Four of the ten tracks have been subjected to 2007-vintage overdubbing in London's Abbey Road Studios by the London Symphony Orchestra, with plush arrangements from co-producer Jorge Calandrelli. Technically, the experiment works about as well as Concord's earlier attempt to overdub the current Count Basie Orchestra over Ray Charles; the seams are inaudible. Although the liner notes claim that everything here is unreleased, "I've Got the World on a String" -- a starkly intimate duet with guitarist Joe Pass when heard on the album Fitzgerald and Pass...Again -- sounds like the released take with a rhythm section and the LSO grafted on. The results transport Ella from a living room into Carnegie Hall, so to speak, completely altering the mood and intent of the original. The best moments come when Ella and pianist André Previn -- then on holiday from leading the Pittsburgh Symphony -- have some civilized fun chasing each other on the scat portion of "Our Love Is Here to Stay," and when the Basie band (with the Count on hand) and Ella swing mightily in "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone." There is also one non-orchestrated, midtempo duet with Pass ("The One I Love [Belongs to Somebody Else]"). Though offering short weight at full price, this CD of addenda to the Era of Ella should find an appreciative audience in the coffee checkout line.

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