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Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Fitzgerald in Budapest

Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Ella Fitzgerald embodied a seemingly effortless yet artful elegance that always found itself on the “sunny side of the street.” Delighting us with a “gee whiz” bravura served up with a shy smile and girlish giggle, Ella’s art was that of the optimist. With Ella, it was blue birds and red, red robins boppin’ along. And so it was in this concert recorded in 1970, in Budapest, behind the Iron Curtain, at the height of the Cold War. Thanks to Ella, for one night at least, the icy grip of that political estrangement warmed.

The audience is ecstatic. Cheering spirits are effervescent standards such as “Crazy Rhythm” and “The Lady Is a Tramp.” Other treats are an insouciant “Cabaret” and a languorous appreciation of “The (Boy) from Ipanema.” More surprising are her piquant takes on such contemporary fare as “Raindrops Keep Falling” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” Most breathtaking is the show-stopping medley of “I Concentrate on You” and “You Go to My Head.” Backing with a sophistication worthy of Fred and Ginger-and Ella-are Tommy Flanagan, Frank De La Rosa and Ed Thigpen.

Originally Published