Jazz/Ella Fitzgerald

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The Early Years, Part 1: the Chick Webb Orchestra

Reference and recommended releases for the early period

People in a hurry who just want to taste the water can checkout:

  • [5] Billie, Ella, Lena, Sarah (though rather short, it has the advantage to not only present Fitzgerald but also other important female singers)

Casual swing/smooth/early jazz listeners looking for a bit more flesh than two titles may try one of these (very decent) compilations:

These looking for a solid reference set covering the best of the period can pick up the remarkable GRP package:

... the following being also a good choice, more appealing to people favoring chronological order:

Completists: Most (if not all) of the originals Decca and Brunswick 78RPM are nowadays pretty hard/costy to find. You might stumble upon a bunch of 45 EP, either from Barclay, CID, Decca, Victor or Brunswick, released during the 50s: pretty much they just bundle together the most popular earlier 78RPM, hence present no specific interest. Beside the earliest edition of Billie, Ella, Lena (note the omitted Sarah), the only other LP is the Souvenir Album (LP 10 DL 5084), issued by Decca in 1950 as some sort of "Early years best of".

As for modern editions, you must dig (in complement of [4] which contains a handful of unreleased material) either of the following, covering the period (almost) exhaustively:

Additionally, you may want to dig the nice Proper Chick Webb boxset (the point of it being it contains all the 78RPM, and not only the Fitzgerald sides):

Other stuff featuring early cuts: Everything else pretty much is random bundles with random sound quality and random documentation that you should avoid (the reason these early bundles flourished so much during the 90s was that the 50 years expiracy limit for copyrights in Europe had been reached, making it possible for almost anybody to roll their own).

Early 30s

Grown-up in extreme poverty (like Holiday did), Fitzgerald, homeless that year, emerged in 1934 (17 years old) at the Apollo Theater (Harlem, New York), winning a contest with Judy (apparently not recorded). She then appeared in the Bradshaw formation, before Benny Carter pushed her toward Chick Webb.

1935

Ella Fitzgerald recorded debut is as a Chick Webb protegee. She is featured on a handful of Decca and Brunswick sides alongside the orchestra (four titles - one of which being a retake of another - having been recorded in two sessions).

All material is available in [1], [2] & [3]. [4] misses the Decca retake of I'll Chase the Blues Away for some reason.

1936

1936 is more active for Ella: 6 sessions (most for Decca, one for Victor, one for Brunswick), 21 cuts (23?) (3 of them being alternate takes). It's also Ella's debut outside Chick Webb formation, first with Teddy Wilson, then Benny Goodman (respectively the Brunswick and the Victor session). Brunswick 7729 is of particular interest, the B side featuring the first rendition of I Cry for You by Billie Holiday, which, at that time, was an influence for Fitzgerald.

All in all: 2 of the alternate takes are unissued (matrix 61362-B & 61364-B). [4] misses 8 more cuts, but manages to provide the super-rare matrix 61361-B (Mr. Paganini alternate take), which both [1] & [2] miss (they have everything else that has been issued, though). [3] obviously contains only the Webb material.

1937

8 sessions for Decca, 22 cuts, all with the Webb orchestra, Ella being more and more present on the group's releases.

[1] & [2] covers all but the super-rares (previously unissued) matrix 62067-B (You Showed Me The Way) and 62214-B (If You Ever Should Leave) which again [4] provides.

1938

This is finally the break-out, with a huge hit: matrix 63693-A A-Tisket A-Tasket, soon to be followed by another one in early 1939.

7 sessions, again for Decca/Webb, 27 takes, all on [1] & [2] but 63705-B and 63710-B, once again on [4].

1939

Another major hit is performed (matrix 65039-A Undecided), but the dramatic death of Chick Webb in June that year puts a temporary stop to Ella ascension.

Recording the 3 last sessions of the year without Webb, Fitzgerald assumed the lead of the band - which she will then do until 1941, with a pretty much unaltered formula (big band, swing, pop, hits).

6 sessions, the last being held in Chicago instead of New-York, all with Chick Webb formation, totaling 33 cuts. Everything on [1] & [2].

1940

The year started with two live performances at the Savoy (both unreleased), and two more a bit later at the Roseland Ballroom (also unissued). War echoes, along with the death of Webb impaired the studio recordings, with only 5 sessions and 18 cuts - though Fitzgerald managed to keep her popularity intact. Everything on [1] & [2].

1941, Part 1: The End of the Webb Orchestra

3 sessions, 14 cuts, Decca. Everything on [1] & [2]. Fitzgerald decides to break-up the band and go solo during the summer.

The Early Years, Part 2: Decca Pop Hits

to be continued...

Stompin' at Verve, Part 1: Norman Granz

Notes: First Lady of Song disc 1 disc 2 disc 3

Stompin' at Verve, Part 2

The Errant Years (1967-1970)

1967 find Verve in difficulties. Creed Taylor would not be long before he left, and MGM management proved less than efficient.

Notes: 4 for Capitol, 2 for Reprise, 1 live for MPS, 1 (dubious?) live for Jazz Band, (Live From The Cave Supper Club) TODO: the two reprise releases Pablo has at least one unreleased Ellington / Fitzgerald live. The Italian television RAI archives still hold some stuff.

1980?

Pablo, Part 1: Back to Granz (1970-1983)

  • TODO (Pablo): Santa Monica LP release
  • TODO (Pablo): JATP Japan live

At the end of the errant years with Capitol/Reprise/Atlantic, Fitzgerald started recording again (live performances at first) for Norman Granz (under his new label Pablo). By 1972, the huge success of Jazz at The Santa Monica settled the deal and helped launching both Granz' label and Fitzgerald late career. Recording with Basie, Pass and Peterson, the tone was back to jazz - after the somewhat questionable previous pop attempts. A number of collaborations were settled during this period, under which you will find the relevant releases:

  • [ Fitzgerald & Basie Orchestra]
  • [ Fitzgerald & Pass]
  • [ Fitzgerald & Prévin]

This period will produce six official live releases, and eleven studio albums (not counting a reissue of Atlantic material bundled with additional cuts). Completists should note there exists a 1971 live from "Jazz Band", and an important number of unissued (unrecorded?) live shows, along with an appearance in a TV serie, and a featuring (voice overdubbing) on a Quincy Jones album (Back on the Block).

While this period of Fitzgerald work has some really great moment (being back to jazz), she's also on the decline, and on her later 80s efforts she is usually quite below her former self.

Listeners guide

Completists This is easy: buy everything from Pablo (late cd reissues so you are sure to catch the couple of previously unissued tracks), dig the Jazz Band obscure boot (Live From Tilburg), the late (Legacy) cd reissue of the Newport Festival and you're almost done with what's available (the Atlantic release is reissued on Pablo with two more cuts from another session). Note that you need The Montreux Collection to catch a few more live cuts. Everything else you'll have to find unreleased tapes for.

Detailed discography

1970

Touring in Europe. 13 unissued live dates. Ella In Budapest is taped by Granz, but will not be released until 1999.

1971

6 unissued live date, some in the US, others in Europe. The dubious Live From Tilburg was apparently issued during the 90s. Ella à Nice (released only in 1983)

1972

Jazz At The Santa Monica Civic '72 (note: missing the original vinyl entry) Ella Loves Cole from Atlantic (reissued into Dream Dancing from Pablo in 1978) 2 unissued live dates.

1973

One live on Columbia (Newport Jazz Festival - Live At Carnegie Hall, July 5, 1973). One studio Pablo/Pass (Take Love Easy) 4 unissued live dates.

1974

One live (Ella In London). One studio release (Fine and Mellow, Ella Jams, released later on in 1978) About 30 live dates (all unreleased).

1975

Three releases: Sophisticated Lady (released in 2001) Ella and Oscar (released 1976) Ella Fitzgerald At The Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 5 unissued live dates.

1976

One studio release (Fitzgerald & Pass...Again). 6 unissued live dates.

1977

A Pablo live release (Montreux '77) 4 unissued live dates.

1978

Two studio releases: Lady Time and Dream Dancing (reissues Ella Loves Cole plus two cuts) 10 unissued live dates.

1979

Records:

Unissued:

  • Live: 4 February 1979 Vancouver
  • Live: April 20 to May 6 1979 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans
  • Live: 9 June 1979 Concord Pavillon, Concord, CA
  • Live: 15 July 1979 Just Call Me Maestro
  • Live: 6 September 1979 Radio City Music Hall, New York
  • Show: 12 November 1979 Chicago PBS Studios, Chicago

1980

Unissued:

  • Live: 19 February 1980 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 26 February 1980 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 28 February 1980 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 1 March 1980 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 4 March 1980 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 5 March 1980 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 2 May 1980 Imperial Room - Royal York Hotel, Toronto
  • Live: 3 May 1980 Imperial Room - Royal York Hotel, Toronto
  • Live: 31 May 1980 Tower Theatre, Huston
  • Live: 1 June 1980 Tower Theatre, Huston
  • Live: 21 July 1980 Grosvenor House Park Lane , London
  • Live: 22 July 1980 Grosvenor House Park Lane , London
  • Live: 23 July 1980 Grosvenor House Park Lane , London
  • Live: 24 July 1980 Grosvenor House Park Lane , London
  • Live: 25 July 1980 Grosvenor House Park Lane , London
  • Live: 26 July 1980 Grosvenor House Park Lane , London
  • Live: Unknown august date, 1980 La Bussola Domani, Viareggio, Italy
  • Live: 7 August 1980 Sanremo (IT)
  • Live: 8 August 1980 Il Covo Club, Santa Margherita Ligure (IT)
  • Live: 9 August 1980 Teatro Comunale, Viareggio (IT)
  • Live: 10 August 1980 Il Muretto Club, Venezia (IT)
  • Live: (possibly erroneous) 11 August 1980 Cà del Liscio Club, Ravenna (IT)
  • Live: 11 August 1980 Jesolo (IT)
  • Live: 14 August 1980 Ravenna (IT)
  • Live: 19 October 1980 Bruxelles
  • Live: 23 October 1980 Chirchester Jazz Festival, Chirchester (GB)
  • Live: 23 October 1980 Newcastle
  • Live: October 24, 25, 26 or 27 1980 Cork Jazz Festival, Cork (GB)
  • Live: 26 October 1980 Dusseldorf
  • Live: 30 October 1980 Ludwigshafen (Germany)

1981

Appeared in a movie (tv serie?) on 16 March 1981 "A Day in the Life"

Unissued:

  • Live: Unknown date, 1981 Wien
  • Live: 17 March 1981 Unknown City, Germany
  • Live: 23 April 1981 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 24 April 1981 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 25 April 1981 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel , New Orleans
  • Live: 28 April 1981 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans
  • Live: 29 April 1981 The Blue Room - Fairmont Hotel , New Orleans
  • Live: 17 July 1981 Casino Hall, Montreux (CH)
  • Live: 22 July 1981 Antibes Jazz Festival, Juan-Les Pins
  • Live: 26 July 1981 Edinbourgh
  • Live: 4 September 1981 Chicago Jazz Festival
  • Live: 11 September 1981 Irvine Bowl, Laguna Beach (CA)

1982

Records:

1983

Records:

  • Studio: Nice Work if You Can Get It
  • Studio: Easy Living
  • Studio: Speak Love
  • Live: Return To Happiness - Jazz At The Philarmonic Yoyogi National Stadium, Tokyo, 1983. Note there exist one unissued track.
  • Live: Sophisticated Lady (two cuts from the same session as above, along an earlier date). Note there exists a rare alternate edition with a slightly different track cutting. This was released after her death.

Unissued:

  • Live: Unknown date, 1983
  • Live: 16 April 1983 Venetian Room - Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
  • Live: 14 July 1983 Circo Massimo, Roma
  • Live: July 15 or 17 1983, Jazz Festival, Wien (AU)
  • Live: 16 July 1983 Jazz Festival, Wiesen (AU)
  • Live: 16 July 1983 Wiesen Jazz Festival, Wiesen (AU)
  • Live: 24 July 1983 Kool Jazz Festival, New York

Pablo, Part 2: The Final Years (1984-1993)

1984

Unissued:

  • Live: Unknown date, 1984 International Jazz Festival, Berne
  • Live: 1 January 1984 Teatro Manzoni, Milan
  • Live: 14 May 1984 Palais Des Congrés, Paris
  • Live: 15 May 1984 Musikhalle, Hamburg
  • Live: 1 August 1984 Wolf Trap park, Washington D.C.

1985

Unissued:

  • Live: 23 March 1985 Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles
  • Live: 30 March 1985 Marin Civic Center, San Rafael (CA)
  • Live: 8 June 1985 Paul Masson Winery, Saratoga (CA)
  • Live: 9 June 1985 Paul Masson Winery, Saratoga (CA)
  • Live: 21 June 1985 Kool Jazz Festival, New York
  • Live: Unknown day and month, 1985 Pronto Raffaella Show, Rome
  • Live: 12 July 1985 Tuipaviljoen - The Northsea Jazz Festival, The Hague (Holland)
  • Live: 29 October 1985 The Venetian Room - Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
  • Live: 30 October 1985 The Venetian Room - Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco

1986

Unissued:

  • Live: 26 April 1986, Hult Center , Eugene (Oregon)
  • Live: Unknown day and month, 1986, Pronto Raffaella Show, Rome
  • Live: Unknown date, 1986, Grand Hotel Billia, Saint Vincent (AO), Italy

1988

Unissued:

  • Live: 25 June 1988, JVC Jazz Festival - Carnegie Hall, New York

1989

Records:

Unissued:

  • Live: 3 August 1989, San Francisco
  • Live: 6 October 1989, The Moulin Rouge Gala - Moulin Rouge , Paris
  • Live: 13 November 1989, Sammy Davis Jr. 60th Anniversary Celebration, Hollywood
  • Live: 25 January 1989, Beverly Hills Hotel , Beverly Hills

1990

Unissued:

  • Live: Unknown date, 1990, San Jose (CA)
  • TV Show: 3 February 1990, BBC Studios - The Michael Aspel Show, London
  • Live: 22 August 1990, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood

1992

Unissued:

  • Live: 15 July 1992, The Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood
  • Live: 2 August 1992, Circle Star Theatre, San Carlos (CA)


Notes

Completists: in 2007 was released Love Letters from Ella, which apparently contains unreleased material overdubbed by an orchestra. It's unknown from which session/period these cuts were sourced (undoubtedly 1970-1990), and if they were really unreleased. There apparently also exists two unreleased studio efforts from 26 April 1980, Carpenters: Music, Music, Music! and September 17-19, 1980 & March 18-20, 1981, Group IV Studios, Hollywood, probably being in Concord hands

This data has been compiled from various sources information including paper documentation, and is not the object of any restrictive license. All text content and comments are original.