Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book (1957)

frontcover1Ella Fitzgerald’s outstanding songbook series has become an institution unto itself. This 1957 effort is distinguished from Fitzgerald’s other songbooks in that it is the only album in which the composer whose work she is singing actively participates.

In fact, these recordings are packed with some of the key figures in 20th century jazz. As if Ella and Duke weren’t enough, Ellington’s arranger/composer Billy Strayhorn, guest musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson, and brilliant record producer Norman Granz all have a hand in the proceedings.

And what better backing band could one want than Duke’s orchestra? The usual suspects — Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, and Sam Woodyard, among others — contribute fine performances throughout. Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery. Included here are classics like “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” “Caravan,” “Satin Doll,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing…,” each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context. (by allmusic.com)


Ella Fitzgerald has been responsible for many classic vocal jazz albums, most of which on Norman Granz’s Verve label and this 1957 classic is no exception. Half of the tracks here were recorded with Duke Ellington and his orchestra which include legends like Billy Strayhorn, Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges and on Take The A Train, the High Priest of Bop Dizzy Gillespie even drops in to deliver an extra sermon. The other half were recorded with small groups which include heavyweights such as Barney Kessel, Stuff Smith, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and the ever warm Ben Webster. Ella is clearly at home with such legendary company and turns in one winning performance after another.
On Rockin’ In Rhythm, she scats with skill and bravado which ensures she’s in command of the illustrious company present. When it’s time to Day Dream, she croons away with an ethereal tone and such emotional maturity that the listener is dreaming of his or her unrequited love too, not forgetting a tip-top solo from Mr Hodges here. When the aforementioned A Train arrives, it’s a jam session of the first rank with all the passengers frontcoversongbookswinging away; giving the listener a first-class trip to Harlem. Perdido and The E & D Blues are top-class jams from Ella and her fellas too which make any listener lost in jazz heaven. I’m Beginning To See The Light and Blip-Blip are such great expressions of joy & exuberance you can’t help but start snapping your fingers and tapping your feet too. On I Got It Bad, Ella cries her heart out making any listener weep along too.
The small group sides also provide legendary moments too. Cotton Tail, It Don’t Mean A Thing, In A Mellow Tone and Squatty Roo provide the listener more opportunities to experience Ella and her fellas to show off their A star credentials in swing. On Satin Doll, Ella takes things a step further, she swaps the Mercer lyrics with her own and a winner is produced. Just Squeeze Me is Ella at her sassiest. On Rocks In My Bed, Ella and Ben really make the listener feel the blues of having to sleep with rocks in one’s bed (Ben’s sax solo here is just iconic). Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me, Sophisticated Lady and Prelude To A Kiss give Ella and her fellas the chance to take the listener to a jazz club at 2am in the morning; every minute of these performances is filled with warmth, soul and class. Ella and Barney Kessel take things a step further on Solitude, Azure and In A Sentimental Mood, these tracks are saturated with so much intimacy and sincerity that this delightful duo could be crooning away right in your own living room at 4am in the morning. Lush Life gives the listener a chance to hear Ella & Oscar sigh as they pour their woes of repeated brushes with unrequited love out.

All in all, a timeless recording that any jazz or Ella fan ought to purchase & THE place to introduce someone to jazz or Ella Fitzgerald. Arguably, Lady Ella’s best album.(by Le Real Luc Ow)

In other words: a masterpiece.

I include the songbook “Ella sings Ellington” from 1959 as a pdf file.


William “Cat” Anderson (trumpet)
Ray Brown (bass)
Harry Carney (clarinet)
Willie Cook (trumpet)
Duke Ellington (piano)
Herb Ellis (guitar)
Ella Fitzgerald (vocals)
Frank Foster (saxophone)
Paul Gonsalves (saxophone)
Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet, saxophone)
Johnny Hodges (saxophone)
Quentin Jackson (trombone)
Barney Kessel (guitar)
Joe Mondragon (bass)
Ray Nance (trumpet, violin)
Oscar Peterson (piano)
Russell Procope (clarinet, saxophone)
John Sanders (trombone)
Paul Smith (piano)
Stuff Smith (violin)
Alvin Stoller (drums)
Billy Strayhorn (piano)
Clark Terry (trumpet)
Ben Webster (saxophone)
Jimmy Woode (bass)
Britt Woodman (trombone)
Sam Woodyard (drums)
Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet on 24.)


01. Cotton Tail (Ellington) 3.26
02. Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (Ellington/Russell) 7.44
03. Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin’ (Ellington/Gaines/Strayhorn) 3.34
04. Solitude (DeLange/Ellington/Mills) 2.09
05. Rocks in My Bed (Ellington) 3.59
06. Satin Doll (Ellington/Mercer/Strayhorn) 3.29
07. Sophisticated Lady (Ellington/Mills/Parish) 5.21
08. Just Squeeze Me (But Don’t Tease Me) (Ellington/Gaines) 4.11
09. It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) (Ellington/Mills) 4.15
10. Azure (Ellington/Mills) 2.23
11. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart (Ellington/Mills/Nemo /Redmond) 4.12
12. In A Sentimental Mood (Ellington/Kurtz/Mills) 2.48
13. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Ellington/Russell) 5.02
14. Prelude To A Kiss (Ellington/Gordon/Mills) 5.29
15. Mood Indigo (Bigard/Ellington/Mills) 3.28
16. In A Mellow Tone (Ellington/Gabler) 5.12
17. Love You Madly (Ellington) 4.41
18. Lush Life (Strayhorn) 3.41
19. Squatty Roo (Hodges) 3.41
20. Rockin’ In Rhythm (Carney/Ellington/Mills) 5.20
21. Drop Me Off In Harlem (Ellington/Kenny) 3.51
22. Day Dream (Ellington/Latouche/Strayhorn) 4.00
23. Caravan (Ellington/Mills/Tizol) 3.55
24. Take the “A” Train (Strayhorn) 6.41
25. I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues (Ellington/George)
26. Clementine (Strayhorn) 2.41
27. I Didn’t Know About You (Ellington/Russell) 4.13
28. I’m Beginning To See The Light (Ellington(George/Hodges/James) 3.28
29. Lost In Meditation (Ellington/Mills/Singer/Tizol) 3.28
30. Perdido (Drake/Lengsfelder/Tizol) 6.13
31. I’m Just A Lucky So And So (David/Ellington) 4.15
32. All Too Soon (Ellington/Sigman) 5.02
33. Everything But You (Ellington/George/James) 5.29
34. I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (Ellington/Webster) 6.15
35. Blip-Blip (Ellington/Kuller) 3.04
36. Chelsea Bridge (Strayhorn) 3.24
37. The E and D Blues (E for Ella, D for Duke) (Ellington/Strayhorn) 4.51




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