Fourteen numbers from the heyday of swing, composed sometime between 1930 and 1945, – played and sung time and time again in ballrooms, or on the radio to advertise biscuits or war bonds, were recorded by Ella in completely new and personal interpretations in 1961. No one should be put off by the rather unfortunate cover! "Clap Hands …" is absolutely top notch as regards musicality, perfect recording quality, superb accompaniment by a small ensemble, with room for improvisations; it offers a wonderful opportunity to discover something new in these evergreens, despite the occasionally banal lyrics. And no one is more capable of doing just that than the great Dame Ella! Whether "Jersey Bounce" or "Clap Hands …", both typical big band hits, whether "Good Morning Heartache" or "You’re My Thrill", both intrinsically and unmistakably tied to Billie Holiday and Lester Young, or whether the classics from the bebop days – "Night In Tunisia" and Thelonious Monk’s "Round Midnight" –, Ella turns them all into Ella numbers. Even Julie London’s hit "Cry Me A River" quickly loses its connections with London and turns into pure Ella! Her exceptional timing, her supreme assuredness with regards to tempi, her vocal flexibility, not to mention her charm, her feeling for the lyrics, and her keen sense for recognising the minutest changes of harmony are truly distinctive. The songs on this recording conjure up bygone days, with listeners in the 21st century being offered a highly personal homage to one of the most successful periods in the 100-year history of jazz.
Recording: January 1961 in New York City and June 1961 in Los Angeles
Production: Norman Granz
Ella Fitzgerald (voc); Lou Levy (p); Herb Ellis (g); Joe Mondragon (b); Stan Levey (dr)