Favorite Ella Recordings

Ella Fitzgerald's career spanned many decades, and her vocal style varied markedly over the years. So too her choice of accompaniment, ranging from simple piano to full orchestra. Her recorded catalog is staggering in size.

Although I've purchased and enjoyed several albums, I feel I'm shooting in the dark. I need help from some of the experts out there to narrow my choices.

What I'm looking for is the smaller group, more intimate albums, that have what I'll call the "timeless" feel to them. Maybe I'm not describing this properly, but some of her work has arrangements that died (properly!) before I was born. While I can usually filter this out if the vocal is really good, my wife and kids think I've fallen off the planet when I play them.

Decent remastering is always a plus. My system does a great job with vocals, and a good transfer definitely enhances the experience.

CD format only please (yes I know analog would be preferred, but that's not my system (at least for now!)

As a major Ella fan, & owner of the above mentioned cd's.

The Verve Complete 16 mini-lp cd Songbooks box set is well worth the price to cover Ella's bests.

The 2 Xrcd's are very wonderful also.

As far as "Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie" is concerned the standard Verve cd is good.

However you must purchase the Classic Records gold cd re-issue, you will be blown away by this cd!!! As this is as close to analog as Ella gets on the compact disc format.

Porgy and Bess - Ella and Louis.

Just unbelievable in terms of performance and sonics - a true masterpiece.
Don't know if they're all on CD (probably not, but at least some of the Ella & Louis is), but my favorite Ella:

Ella & Louie on Verve
Ella & Louie Again, again on Verve
Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass on Pablo (any record is stunning)
Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington - Live at the Cote D'Azur (Verve)

My obscure Ella tip is: The soundtrack to "Let No Man Write My Epitaph" also on Verve. Her version of 'Black Coffee' on this gets me every time. Good listening,

Of the dozen or so Ella recordings that I have, my favorite is Ella in Rome: The 40th Birthday Concert. Oscar Peterson and Co. provide sublime accompaniment. The song selection gives Ella opportunity to display all of her musical attributes, and boy, does she deliver! My favorite song on this recording is "I Loves You Porgy". She takes the tempo very slowly and moves from her head voice to her chest voice so smoothly that it makes your head swoon. Such control! So, so beautiful.
I cannot believe nobody has even mentioned the live "Ella in Berlin." It contains a famous version of "Mack the Knife" where Ella forgets the lyrics and makes up new ones on the spot, and a death-defying scat on "How High the Moon." (Contrary to Easy_e, I love to hear her scatting.) Sound is not great and variable on the recent "complete" version, because it includes several tracks from less than pristine sources.

If you prefer the more intimate setting, you should be a bit careful with the Songbooks (I have all of them) which contain primarily big band arrangements.

Along with "Pure Ella", there was an album called "The Intimate Ella" which was also just voice and piano.

The first two Louis Armstrong collaborations are great. I've actually never heard the Porgy and Bess, but I think it has an orchestra (not sure). My favorite of the Joe Pass collaborations is the second, "Fitzgerald and Pass Again." By then (early/mid 70's) Ella's voice had begun a decline, but she made up for it with greater attention to lyrics.

By the way, I had trouble getting a clean vinyl pressing of the Pass/Fitzgerald album when it came out, and I wrote a letter complaining to Norman Granz. He sent back a handwritten apology and six copies of the album to make sure I found a good one.

That's class.