1001 Albums 0018-0019

Published July 01, 2012

My continued journey through the albums featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

0018 Sarah Vaughan: Sarah Vaughan At Mister Kelly’s (1958)

In 2005 I saw a performance by Blossom Dearie in New York City that ranks as one of the most satisfying live shows I’ve ever experienced. I was sitting at a table, a glass of wine at hand, and only a few metres away from the artist. It was intimate, I was allowed to sit down throughout the entire show, and I could concentrate on the actual music and not have to worry about anything else.

I usually don’t have much time for live albums, but this Sarah Vaughan album reminded me of the Blossom Dearie show. It works for me precisely because of the intimate setting: instead of the sound of an anonymous stadium crowd, you can actually hear the reactions of individual people in the audience. The fact that the album starts with an introduction informing the audience that they will be part of a live recording, coupled with Ms Vaughan’s banter and occasional mistakes, makes you feel like you’re right there.

Oh, and the singing and playing on it is amazing as well.

Verdict: A really great live album.

0019 Ella Fitzgerald: Sings The George And Ira Gershwin Song Book (1959)

I love Ella Fitzgerald. Her very own combination of warmth and exactitude is simply matchless. My only gripe is that occasionally she sounds like she’s thinking of the shopping list rather than the actual song she’s performing. Too much exactitude and too little warmth. Not so, for the most part, on this five-LP box set of songs from the George and Ira Gershwin song book (which today would fit snugly on a double-CD).

As the reader may be aware, she did several of those Great American Song Book albums around this time, covering Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Harold Arlen, and perhaps others. I own the Porter and Rodgers & Hart albums, but according to the 1001 albums book, this one is the best, and I believe they may be right. As I’ve already revealed I’m a fan of the arranger Nelson Riddle, who is responsible for the arrangements here, and he does not disappoint. If nothing else, it’s interesting to hear how he’s approached some of the songs for which he wrote arrangements for Sinatra as well. I am definitely going to invest.

Verdict: Highly recommended.