In order to recycle its holdings yet again, Verve hit upon a fascinating gimmick: get celebrity guest "DJs" to select the tracks and provide the liner notes. So here, Joe Williams is the man on the spot, and he comes up with 16 of his favorite Ella tunes, a good connoisseur's mix of orchestrated ballads, pure jazz workouts, sessions with big bands, duets, and intimate pairings with pianists. Most of them are on their umpteenth trip onto CD -- obvious basic library stuff like the live "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," "Mr. Paganini," "How High the Moon," "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" with Satchmo, and the famous Berlin "Mack the Knife" -- but a few are comparatively unusual, like "Robbins' Nest" with a trio at Carnegie Hall from 1949. There is also an apparent goof; the guys in the mastering lab used a Williams solo version of "Too Close for Comfort" instead of a promised duet with Ella. Williams' "notes" -- actually a transcribed interview -- emphasize the sheer fun that Ella had onstage, her innate sense of rhythm and storytelling ability, and even includes a bit of humor (when citing "Lush Life" as a textbook recording of the tune, he says he's heard singers say "distant gay places" instead of "distingue places"). Ultimately -- pardon the pun -- it's about as good as one can expect a mere single-disc sampling of Verve's vast Ella holdings to be.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell
feat: Paul Weston
feat: Count Basie Orchestra