Something to Live For
The most effective way of taking in the full impact of Ella Fitzgerald's exquisite artistry may be to hear her in unadorned surroundings. On "But Not For Me," "Misty," and "Angel Eyes" -- three highlights, among many, on this double-disc companion to an upcoming PBS salute to Fitzgerald -- Ella is accompanied by piano on the first two selections, a single guitar on the latter. The gorgeous tonal quality of Fitzgerald's voice, her subtle, satisfying improvisations, her supple rhythmic sense, and her unaffected way with a lyric are all displayed to thrilling advantage. Yet the same singer who needed nothing more than discreet accompaniment to turn in a compelling performance, could also ride the fuller currents of a jazz combo, a big band, or a well-stocked studio orchestra with powerful grace. No matter the setting or material, Ella made it all swing like no other jazz vocalist ever has. Ballads ("Round Midnight," "Body and Soul," "Something to Live For"), mid-tempo cruisers ("Midnight Sun," "You Showed Me the Way," "Goody, Goody"), dashing swingers ("How High the Moon," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Airmail Special") -- each number is sparked with a vitality and confidence that fairly bursts from the jazz diva. If you're a Fitzgerald fan (as every lover of jazz and/or popular singing should be), SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR will send you back to the multitudes of Fitzgerald albums you already cherish; for neophyte listeners, this well-chosen set is a great place to develop a necessary Fitzgerald obsession.