Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ella's Kern Song Book: lost masterwork

I've come to this one late in life. Today was the first time I've ever heard this recording.

It was the next-to-last installment in the song book series, from 1963. It and the last (the Mercer) were one LP each, the briefest of the series. The concept was clearly running out of steam.

Oh yeah?

This is the great lost masterpiece of the series--I'd go so far as to call it one of the great lost masterpieces of American popular singing. The arrangements are by Nelson Riddle--some of his best, most unusual, gentle, understated, buoyant work, perfectly attuned to Ella's voice and style. All that work with her on the five-disc Gershwin set didn't go for naught.

One supreme example: A Fine Romance. Riddle scores this not unlike his famous chart of I've Got You Under My Skin for Sinatra, which is to say as a slow crescendo. It's a great comic song from Swing Time, as I'm sure you know, and Astaire and Rogers did it to a 'T' in the film. Ella's is totally off the map--it bears very little resemblance to the movie version, other than the lyrics and melody. Interpretively, it's a thing of such artistry (both subtle and grand) and majesty that you've got to hear it to truly appreciate it. Words, especially my feeble ones, can't begin to describe it.



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