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Ella 101: All My Life (Day 24 of 101)

May 18, 2018

One of the earliest entries in Ella Fitzgerald's nearly six-decade career is "All My Life," recorded with pianist and bandleader Teddy Wilson. The song was written by Sam H. Stept and Sidney Mitchell for a film called Laughing Irish Eyes, where it wass debuted by Phil Regan.

This outing, recorded in New York on St. Patrick's Day, 1936, is a fascinating look back at where jazz - at the time considered pop music - was in the 1930s and how far Ella's style came afterward. Heard through today's perspective, the standout here isn't Ella, it's a couple of the band members, and Ella gives what seems to be the standard, oddly intonated, high and somewhat nasal type of vocal that was the standard in the 1920s and through the late 1930s, as popularized by singers like Rudy Vallee.

You can also hear the "little girl" sound widely credited to Ella's voice for the first stretch of her career, before her voice deepened and she settled into a different style of singing. By two years later, in 1938's "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," she was singing in a lower register and had dropped the nasal affectation, but the youthful sound remained for several years longer (most readily apparent in tracks like 1939's "My Wubba Dolly").

It's an altogether pleasant recording, though, and the spotlight is stolen by WIlson's beautiful piano work and Frank Newton's fabulous trumpet solo, echoing the influence of Louis Armstrong and showing qualities that would later be found in the sounds of trumpeters like Jonah Jones, Roy Eldridge, and Ellington band members like Ray Nance and Cat Anderson.

The full band is comprised of Wilson on piano, Newton on trumpet, Benny Morton on trombone, Jerry Blake on clarinet and alto sax, Ted McRae on tenor sax, John Trueheart on guitar, Lennie Stanfield on bass, and Cozy Cole on drums.

Ella 101 is a daily look at 101 essential recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, who was born 101 years ago this month. Tune in to Equinox, Monday nights from 8 - 11 p.m. on WYSO, to hear Ella and more great jazz with host Duante Beddingfield.