ELLA FITZGERALD & LOUIS ARMSTRONG Ella And Louis (Verve)
Jazz purists might sneer, but theres something deliciously effortless and correct about this 1956 date. Theres two giants of the genre up front, working through a flawless selection drawn from the greatest American songbooks, the Oscar Peterson Trio and Buddy Rich keep the beat and Norman Granzs production is blessed with such in-the-room clarity it could have been recorded yesterday.
As you might expect, Louis takes these songs in his big grizzly bear hug of a voice, squeezing and smothering them until they emerge as something entirely different to the score. In contrast, Ellas diction is practically received pronunciation-perfect, with nary a trace of the lyrical and melodic liberties shes famed for taking. As a combination, theyre like chocolate and cheese made for each other, some might say. What might surprise is how little actually duetting takes place: Ella might take the opening verse, Satch takes the next one and a solo and they join together for a chorus at the close. In fact, during Cheek To Cheek Armstrong says Take it Ella, swing it, as if theyre both engaged in some kind of musical relay race. (And, it has to be said, she does.)
Despite, or perhaps because of, their vocal idiosyncrasies it might be unfair to expect the headlining duo to mesh as seamlessly as, for example, Paul and Art. Nevertheless, I cant think of anybody Ive played this to who hasnt found it enchanting. Its easy listening that, somewhat paradoxically, repays all the attention you can throw at it.
Louis ArmstrongElla Fitzgerald