Ella Fitzgerald

Selection of Ella Fitzgerald

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The U.K.'s Proper imprint is a solid label -- with perhaps somewhat dubious licensing practices by American standards -- that issues classic jazz, blues, country, and early rock & roll in very reasonably priced editions with enough information to make a listener happy, but not enough to keep a collector's criticisms at bay. This Ella Fitzgerald collection compiles material of the great vocalist mainly from her years with Decca in the 1930s and '40s, both as a soloist in her own right and fronting the Louis Jordan band. There are early and often definitive performances of tunes now inseparably associated with her, such as "Sentimental Journey," "How High the Moon," "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," her amazing reading of "It's Only a Paper Moon," "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," and many more. The version of "Stone Cold Dead in the Market," with its use of Cuban rhythms, is both hilarious and fingerpopping great; likewise her reading of "Cry You Out of My Heart" with the Delta Rhythm Boys from 1945. Anyway you look at -- or listen to -- this 32-track set, it comes out spectacularly. Certainly there will be some quibbles from the aficionados about what could or should have been substituted for something else, but for the rest of us, those who are looking for a solid introduction to Ella Fitzgerald when she established herself as the queen of jazz singers, this set is a gem.

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