Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald are usually recognized as the two best swing vocalists ever. Sinatra’s strength was the almost superhuman level of subtle interpretation that he brought to any set of lyrics. On the other hand, the rap on Fitzgerald was that she focused almost exclusively on melody and rhythm, as opposed to lyric shading. But while Sinatra treated singing like acting, Fitzgerald treated singing like her voice was an entire orchestra. With perfect pitch, dead-on rhythmic instincts, and the most natural swinging cadence of any singer in popular music, Fitzgerald’s singing, scatting, and improvisation were pure jazz. It’s no surprise that Louis Armstrong, who took a similar vocal approach, loved recording with her.
Teaming up with R&B organist Bill Doggett on the appropriately titled Rhythm Is My Business (1962), Ella Fitzgerald recorded one of her swingingest albums ever. From the opening strains of “Rough Ridin’” to the final notes of “If I Could Be With You,” it is a non-stop, up-tempo swing fest sure to delight the hard-core jazz aficionado, as well as the 1990s retro hipsters.
// Notes from the Road
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