By the 1950s, Billie Holiday was known as a peerless blues singer among jazz musicians. However, in 1963, Ella Fitzgerald did something Billie never achieved - she recorded an entire album of only blues songs.
1963's These Are the Blues found a hard-swinging Ella in a mostly straightforward tilt at classic blues cuts, with a band led by Wild Bill Davis on organ and featuring Roy Eldridge on trumpet, Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Gus Johnson on drums.
This track, "Trouble in Mind" is one of the earliest examples of a blues classic (particularly as a blues standard for female singers), with lyrical origins that reach back to mid-1800s Negro spirituals.
Ella gives it a proper wailing at slow and steady pace, then double times it through once more. The positivity and humor in her reading during the second half of the song give a great contrast to the bleak lyrics and form what feels like a complete journey; the woman wringing her hands in the first half seems to remember her strength and find the resolve to push on.
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.