Another glowing review of Ella Fitzgerald’s residency at the Crescendo Club in the early 1960s, this time by Will Friedwald:
June 1962. The Crescendo Club on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Ella Fitzgerald and her quartet have settled in for a two-week run in her adopted hometown. In the middle of a set, she starts singing “Too Darn Hot,” which had been a highlight of her 1956 album, “The Cole Porter Songbook.” But a few notes into the song, Fitzgerald is interrupted by the sound of kids dancing the twist in another joint upstairs. She decides to go with the flow: Drummer Gus Johnson and pianist Lou Levy start pounding out a boogie-shuffle beat, and the singer improvises lyrics about how hard it is to sing Porter while everybody’s twistin’. She then launches into the “Kiss Me Kate” show tune with the kind of energy and swing that the young twisters couldn’t even dream about. It’s a brilliant, spontaneous moment, and a wonderful insight into the thinking of one of the iconic interpreters of the Great American Songbook.
This performance is one of the many joys of the recently released four-CD boxed set “Twelve Nights in Hollywood,” and it’s also a microcosm of what was occurring in American culture at the time. At start of the ’60s, Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra were the powerhouses of the record-album business. Rock ‘n’ roll was in the doldrums, and even at its earlier height it was mainly a singles market. No less than Sinatra with his concept albums, Fitzgerald and her producer-manager Norman Granz had transformed the long-playing medium with their songbook and live albums. In 1959 and 1960, Fitzgerald brought both these ideas to unprecedented heights with one project that was incredibly ambitious, her five-LP “George and Ira Gershwin Songbook,” and another that was masterful in its simplicity, “Ella in Berlin—Mack the Knife.”
[Click to continue reading Ella Fitzgerald, Twelve Nights in Hollywood | By Will Friedwald – WSJ.com]
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