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Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser's classic "Heart and Soul," known to piano students the world over, was one of many solid recordings made during Ella Fitzgerald's peak period but went unreleased for decades.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

A little-known novelty song in Ella Fitzgerald's catalogue, "Ringo Beat" was a "tribute from the elder generation — a jazz grande dame trying to get with the times," as described in Rob Sheffield's 2017 book Dreaming the Beatles.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

Today, the song that made me fall in love with Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella loved every kind of music, voraciously listening to almost anything she came across and equally enjoying rock, soul, classical, and Latin music alongside her home base of jazz. As her career began and peaked with regular new takes on the day's popular songs--at that time, big band and jazz standards, and new Broadway hits), she never lost interest in tackling current material, plucking tunes from the pop charts well into the 1980s and sprinkling them into her formidable repertoire.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

Very few are aware that Ella Fitzgerald's first #1 single - preceding her famous "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" (which we'll discuss later) - was recorded with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. 1937's "Goodnight My Love," introduced the previous in a Shirley Temple film, was one of a small group of sides Ella and Benny cut together.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

Old pals Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong teamed up in the late 1940s when she was on the Decca label, but it's their three albums for Verve Records that are most remembered. The first of those, 1956's Ella and Louis (note that Ella was such a huge star at the time that she was billed ahead of beloved living legend Armstrong), was so pristine and so well received that a year ago, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

1964's Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook, despite often being forgotten among her Verve output, is a beautiful work that is significant for many reasons: it was her fifth and final collaboration with Nelson Riddle arranging and conducting, it was the final entry in her Songbook series, it's the only Songbook album that focused on the work of a lyricist.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

This fun recording was the lead track from Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson, the first of a back-to-back pair of albums Ella Fitzgerald and Nelson Riddle released in 1962. At the 5th Annual Grammy Awards, Ella won Best Vocal Performance for this album (her 7th win since the award's inception).

Interestingly enough, after yesterday's post from her miserable late '60s period at Capitol Records, this album was recorded November 14, 1961 at the Capitol Records Tower (Riddle's home base) but for her home label, Verve.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

Music and television history right here...

Sunday, February 2, 1964: Ella headlines an installment of The Ed Sullivan Show that also features Sammy Davis, Jr. and Rip Taylor. (Note that even at the peak of Sammy's Rat Pack, international superstar years - he would also open his Tony-nominated run in Golden Boy a few months later - Ella was still billed above him as the bigger star.)

Ella did four songs throughout the episode, and Sammy three (including his knockout West Side Story medley accompanied only by Johnny Mendoza on bongos), and at the end, Sammy crashed her fifth song.

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

On July 20, 1966, Ella Fitzgerald recorded an entire album, her final studio session for Verve Records. Whisper Not, named for saxophonist Benny Golson's hard bop ballad written ten years prior, is a classy, if mostly subdued, outing which placed Ella before the Marty Paich Orchestra, with Paich handling arranging and conducting duties, and a rhythm section of Jimmy Rowles (p), Joe Mondragon (b), and Shelley Manne (d).

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

Another unusual, unique entry in Ella Fitzgerald's extensive recording career, this is likely the sexiest version of "Just a Closer Walk" you'll ever hear, but before we get into that, a bit of history.

1967 marked the end of Ella's peak period as both a recording artist and a vocalist as she entered her fifties and departed from the Verve record label, where she'd spent more than two decades scoring triumph after triumph on vinyl. Her celebrated voice had begun to show small signs of wear, and over the next eight years, she would hop from label to label, recording nine largely lackluster albums for five different houses.

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