Ella Fitzgerald, Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook

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By PopMatters Staff

Oscar Peterson
Plays the Duke Ellington Songbook
(Verve)

Various Artists
Ellingtonia: A Tribute to Duke Ellington
(Justin Time)
by Sarah Zupko

I can’t think of another singer more ideally suited to Duke Ellington’s music than Ella Fitzgerald. Ellington always treated the voice like another weapon in his symphonic arsenal, a characteristic shared by most classical composers. That was also Fitzgerald’s approach to singing, occasionally criticized by the Sinatra-loving set, who claimed she placed all the emphasis on melody and rhythm and little on lyrics. Well, her swinging, pitch-perfect, singing and scatting is a marriage made in heaven for the tunes on Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, which includes such timeless classics as “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Mood Indigo,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and “Satin Doll.”

Fairly early in his career, 1952, legendary pianist Oscar Peterson took a different route through the Ellington standards. Favoring a cool and relaxed approach, Peterson tackles all the standards in his inimitable style. Apparently once wasn’t enough, because Peterson went back in the studio in 1959 to record stereo versions of the songs. The Verve reissue includes all of those recordings. Peterson reappears with Dave Young on Ellingtonia, along with a host of today’s more popular jazz artists. Oliver Jones does justice to “Take The A Train,” while Diana Krall’s ever sultry, swinging vocals are another highlight on “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me.”

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/ellington-100b/