Ella: The Legendary Decca Recordings

by: Ella Fitzgerald

The four-CD retrospective The Legendary Decca Recordings represented both an attempt to present the essence of Ella Fitzgerald's two-decade tenure at Decca Records and to defend that period against the conventional wisdom that not until she moved to Verve Records in the mid-'50s was her talent given full rein. Divided into four sections, the collection began with "The Very Best of Ella," not exactly a greatest-hits set, though it started with her first big hit, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," and included such chart successes as "Undecided," "Cow-Cow Boogie," and "Stone Cold Dead in the Market." Also included were such classics of scat singing as "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "How High the Moon" and the signature song "You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganinni)." Thus, with only one disc, producers Orrin Keepnews and Joel Dorn accomplished their goals of including Fitzgerald's most memorable work for Decca and demonstrating that this work was as good as any she ever did. The second disc, "Ella & Friends," featured duets with Louis Armstrong, the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Mills Brothers, among others. With the third disc, "Ella Sings Gershwin & Others," the producers went on to show how her Decca recordings anticipated the ones on Verve. Of course, the popular Verve songbooks featured not only song standards but also name arrangers, and the fourth disc "Ella & the Arrangers" demonstrated that, again, Decca had gotten there first, pairing her with many gifted arrangers. Ella Fitzgerald recorded a great deal of material for Decca over the years, and some of it certainly justifies the criticisms made of the catalog in general. But The Legendary Decca Recordings presented it in the best possible light and included the most impressive sides from the period. ~ William Ruhlmann

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