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Ella Fitzgerald: Live at the Savoy 1939-40

Ella Fitzgerald’s Live at the Savoy 1939-40 (Hep) is probably the only CD under Ella’s name that does not have a single vocal. Taken from radio broadcasts that I believe were previously unreleased, it features the Ella Fitzgerald Orchestra performing instrumentals, with the leader restricted to yelling out encouragement. The direct descendant of the Chick Webb Big Band, this largely forgotten orchestra is much stronger than expected, with fine solos from the underrated trumpeter Bobby Stark, trombonist Sandy Williams, clarinetist Eddie Barefield, tenor-saxophonist Teddy McRae, pianist Tommy Fulford and (on the final broadcast) trumpeter Taft Jordan and Lonnie Simmons on tenor. It is an excellent swing set, but somewhere on the outside of the CD, it should have said that this is a purely instrumental program.

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