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Ella Fitzgerald: Love Letters From Ella

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In the wake of celebrations commemorating the 90th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth comes this oft-delightful collection of previously unreleased performances made by the legendary vocalist for the Pablo label. The time frame in focus here is from 1973 to 1983, a very good 10 years as it happens.

To say that Fitzgerald was keeping excellent company back then is an understatement: Not only is she heard here variously collaborating with the Count Basie Orchestra, guitarist Joe Pass and pianist Andre Previn (with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass), she’s the beneficiary of bookending Benny Carter-devised arrangements of “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” and “Some Other Spring.” With the frictionless support of the Basie band, Fitzgerald swings through the former tune with signature ease and charm before infusing the latter ballad with a soulful melancholy. The Pablo vaults yield several other small gems, including “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” in which Previn nimbly accents Ella’s scat-laced interpretation. The three Fitzgerald-Pass collaborations are distinguished by the cozy duet arrangement of “The One I Love (Belongs to Someone Else)” and rounded out by recently augmented takes of “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Take Love Easy,” featuring the London Symphony Orchestra.

Though the performances on this collection stem from relatively late in Fitzgerald’s recording career, there’s no mistaking her girlish zest, harmonic acumen and remarkable gift for embellishing a phrase, a word or a mere syllable in a way that seems at once artful and effortless.