Ella Fitzgerald - The Rodgers And Hart Song Book
Label: Verve Records – MIJ-2-5310
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album
Record: VG+ VG++ few light scuffs
Cover: VG++ slightest of cornerwear
A1 You Took Advantage Of Me 3:26
A2 Ev'rything I've Got 3:20
A3 Where Or When 2:45
A4 The Lady Is A Tramp 3:21
A5 Here In My Arms 1:51
A6 Blue Moon 3:10
A7 Lover 3:15
A8 Wait Till You See Her 1:28
A9 My Funny Valentine 3:52
B1 Bewitched 7:01
B2 The Blue Room 2:27
B3 Ten Cents A Dance 4:05
B4 With A Song In My Heart 2:43
B5 Spring Is Here 3:36
B6 This Can't Be Love 2:54
B7 Thou Swell 2:02
B8 Little Girl Blue 3:53
C1 Johnny One Note 2:11
C2 I Wish I Were In Love Again 2:38
C3 It Never Entered My Mind 4:05
C4 Dancing On The Ceiling 4:05
C5 There's A Small Hotel 3:24
C6 My Heart Stood Still 3:02
C7 Mountain Greenery 2:12
C8 I Didn't Know What Time It Was 3:45
D1 I've Got Five Dollars 2:38
D2 Have You Met Miss Jones 3:39
D3 To Keep My Love Alive 3:33
D4 A Ship Without A Sail 4:07
D5 Manhattan 2:47
D6 Isn't It Romantic 2:59
D7 Give It Back To The Indians 3:10
D8 I Could Write A Book 3:36
D9 My Romance 3:38
Composed By – Richard Rodgers And Lorenz Hart
Liner Notes – Deena Rosenberg
Orchestra – Buddy Bregman Orchestra, The
Producer – Norman Granz
Vocals – Ella Fitzgerald
Although neither the first nor the most fêted of Ella Fitzgerald's Songbooks, this collection drawn from the huge output of Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers is unquestionably the best. What sets the Rodgers and Hart Songbook apart from the other albums in the series that Ella recorded for Norman Granz's Verve label, quite simply, is the quality of the material that she had to work with. Her voice was such a magisterial instrument and her command of the expressive power of words so subtle that she seldom performed anything which drew on the full scope all her abilities.
In the course of this double album, we get to see every facet of her talent. With Hart and Rodgers, Ella's enormous generosity of spirit, her love for song and for singing, her sheer humanity are put wholeheartedly at the disposal of very great music. Make no mistake, this is a desert island album. Richard Rodgers is most widely known for his nicely conceived but largely undemanding settings of the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein - above all, perhaps, in 'Oklahoma' and 'The Sound of Music.'
However, it has been recognised by many, especially jazz musicians, that Rodgers' earlier work with Lorenz Hart shows the full measure of his talents. When he worked with Hammerstein, the lyrics came first: the notoriously elusive Hart, on the other hand, preferred to write words for tunes that had already been composed.
Before he was constrained by Hammerstein's trite little rhymes, Rodgers produced pieces that, among the great Broadway composers, are equalled in melodic suppleness and harmonic variety only by Jerome Kern. Hart, in return, wrote lyrics that are by turns scintillating in their wit and searing in their poignancy. Some of his experiments in rhyme are deliciously knowing: "Beans could get no keener re/ception in a beanery ... We could find no cleaner re/treat from life's machinery"; "The city's clamor can never spoil/ The dreams of a boy and 'goil'"; "When love congeals/ It soon reveals/ The faint aroma of performing seals,/ The double-crossing of a pair of heels"; and so on. Yet what ultimately makes Hart's lyrics so great is their apparent naturalness. There is a conversational ease about all his words, and he never needed to mangle sentences for the sake of scanning or rhyming. Song never seemed so unforced an extension of normal speech, and therefore never so touching.
Ella Fitzgerald is famed primarily for up-tempo performances which showcased the sweetness and zest of her superbly flexible voice. We certainly see plenty of evidence of Ella's vocal brightness in the Rodgers & Hart Songbook. In numbers such as 'Mountain Greenery,' 'Manhattan' and 'I Wish I Were In Love Again' (from which the above quotes are drawn) her voice dances above the exuberant charts of Buddy Bregman, who was responsible for the bulk of the orchestral arrangements in this set. Yet Ella's delicacy in handling tender sentiment, romanticism and wistfulness - in the ballads, or 'pretty' numbers as she called them - is not sufficiently acknowledged, even today. For anyone who remains sceptical, this double album offers wonderful examples of all of these mellower and darker shades of feeling.
'With A Song In My Heart,' one of Rodgers' loveliest melodies offset by a ravishing extended musical metaphor from Hart, shows just how warm and embracing Ella's voice could be. Similarly, she conveys fully the dreamy romanticism of such songs as 'Where or When' and 'Blue Moon.' In the saddest of the songs - above all, perhaps, the heart-wrending 'Little Girl Blue' - Ella proves that conspicuous emotion is not always as telling as subdued emotion. Lorenz Hart recognised this, for his lyrics rarely wear their heart on their sleeve. To my mind, the greatness of Ella Fitzgerald is that she can touch you to your heart's core without any mannerism or straining after effect (of the kind often all too evident in the work of Billie Holliday): the simplicity of her renderings can in itself move you to tears, and beyond tears.
It's hard to think of a down-side to this collection. If I have one very, very minor complaint, it is that Buddy Bregman, though workmanlike, is not as effective an arranger across the emotional range as other collaborators such as Nelson Riddle, Paul Weston, Frank DeVol or, of course, Duke Ellington. Having said that , his contribution to the brighter sides is splendid; in particular, he helps to make Ella's recording of 'Manhattan' so memorable that it is really impossible to imagine any other. On some tracks Ella works with a smaller group, in arrangements by the pianist Paul Smith, and in one case alone with the guitarist Barney Kessel. The Smith arrangements, and the jamming sessions with his quartet, are amongst the best in the collection - in particular, the brilliantly witty treatment of Rodgers' and Hart's last, darkly comic song, 'To Keep My Love Alive,' and the torch-song-with-a-sting-in-the-tail, 'Bewitched.'
Ella Fitzgerald - Little Girl Blue
Ella Fitzgerald - The Lady Is a Tramp
ELLA FITZGERALD - BLUE MOON