Sophisticated Ladyby Ella Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald was the artist who most put the live album on the map -- unusually the international map -- and therefore it's not surprising that five years after her death, most of the new Fitzgerald releases should be previously unheard live concerts. Sophisticated Lady, which combines tracks from two tours, is a worthy successor to such revelatory releases from the last few years as Ella in Budapest (taped in 1970) and In the Groove (culled from a series of live broadcasts aired in 1939). While this compendium continues Fitzgerald's connection to the tradition of live recording, it also extends two other crucial relationships in her musical life. The first is with Joe Pass, the virtuoso guitarist who was her most frequent musical companion in the 1970s. The second is with Duke Ellington: She undoubtedly recorded more of the Maestro's masterworks than any other major vocalist, and this set, which takes its title from an Ellington classic, contains no less than six delightful Ducal doings. The very naked quality of the voice-and- guitar duet reveals some slight degradation of the greatest voice in American music, but Fitzgerald sings with such warmth, creating such an immediate bond between herself and the audience (both those in the stadium and those listening decades later), that I wouldn't change a microtone.
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