Intimate Ella Fitzgerald, Rediscovered





WITH all the multi-disc jazz boxes that have come out in recent years — the complete Miles Davis on Columbia, the complete Charlie Parker on Savoy, the complete Duke Ellington on RCA and so on — it’s hard to believe that any significant tapes by any major musician might still be languishing undiscovered in a record company’s archives.

Yet Verve has just released “Twelve Nights in Hollywood,” a four-CD boxed set of Ella Fitzgerald singing 76 songs at the Crescendo, a small jazz club in Los Angeles, in 1961 and ’62 — and none of it has ever been released until now.

These aren’t bootlegs; the CDs were mastered from the original tapes, which were produced by Norman Granz, Verve’s founder and Fitzgerald’s longtime manager.

They capture the singer in her peak years, and at top form: more relaxed, swinging and adventurous, across a wider span of rhythms and moods, than on the dozens of other albums that hit the bins in her lifetime.

Richard Seidel, the producer of the boxed set, first heard the tapes early this year. He was driving to Massachusetts from his home in New Jersey and brought along some rough CD transfers to play in the car.

“I was feeling kind of down that day,” he recalled, “and the more I listened, I could not help but start to smile. I’ve worked on dozens of Ella projects over the years, but there was something different about this one — the sheer rhythmic joy she projects, the endlessly inventive improvising.”

There’s nothing rare about a joyous Ella Fitzgerald recording; the woman exuded joy in nearly every note she sang. Yet the level on these sessions soared higher and plumbed deeper...


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