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Love, and CDs, for Sale: Ella Fitzgerald on Record

Christopher Loudon chooses highlights from the centenary-related flood of Ella reissues and tributes

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald

The vast majority of Ella Fitzgerald’s recordings have been reissued in various formats and packages again and again. Still, Universal Music Group, which controls Fitzgerald’s entire Decca and Verve catalogs, has devised several clever ways to reassemble and reimagine her work for her 100th. Released April 21, four days before her birthday, the four-disc Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs for a Centennial provides a comprehensive survey that extends from early dates with Chick Webb to her Grammy-winning “Mack the Knife” from 1960.

Cover of Ella Fitzgerald album 100 Songs for a Centennial
Cover of Ella Fitzgerald album 100 Songs for a Centennial

For a deeper dive into Fitzgerald’s formative years, all 300 of her Decca singles have been assembled across four digital-only sets covering 1935-55. Aside from such forgettable tracks as “My Wubba Dolly” and “Somebody Bad Stole de Wedding Bell,” this massive compilation is not only rich with sizzling Webb-led swing, early scat and American Songbook treasures but also provides elucidating documentation of Fitzgerald’s maturation as a vocalist, progressing from her Connee Boswell-influenced beginnings to the full glory that would later define her Verve years. The collection also includes her first duets with Louis Armstrong, alongside those with Louis Jordan, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers and the Delta Rhythm Boys.

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