Ellington fans will recognize Alice Babs as the principal vocalist on his late-career landmark, 1968’s Second Sacred Concert. But there was another Ellington-Babs collaboration five years earlier, a sterling Paris session that resulted in Serenade to Sweden, widely considered the rarest album in the Ellington catalog, never reissued until now.
Age 39 at the time, Babs was an established film and recording star in her native Sweden. With impeccable English diction, she echoes the pop purity of Doris Day or Jo Stafford and the heaven-sent majesty of Mary Lou Williams, her jazz instincts keen and true. And, as demonstrated across several wordless tracks, her scatting often approaches Ella worthiness.