Shootout Winners from 2016

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Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Both sides of this original stereo pressing are White Hot – Triple Plus all the way! Breathy, tubey, big and clear, this is the best sound we have ever heard for Whisper Not. Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin. “These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers.”

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Shootout Winners from 2016

Two As Good As It Gets sides back to back. You get superb space and transparency, a three-dimensional soundfield, and full-bodied, immediate vocals.

The key to any Ella recording on Verve is to find the pressing with the most presence, breathiness, richness, tubiness and all that other good stuff that vintage analog records can give you, whilst minimizing the midrangy EQ that plagues most of her albums.

And it can be done. This copy is proof! Hardness and honkiness are no strangers to her records, but the best pressings make the EQ on her vocals sound maybe not perfect, but right for the music.

The Music

A couple of high points: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, the song Ella sang on her masterpiece, Clap Hands, is here rearranged for the players at hand, and the interpretation is fresh and moving. The song I Said No is filled with silly double entendres and is a hoot.

But I have to say those are two high points picked almost at random. Every track on this album is wonderful. I think this is one of her three or four best recordings ever. Another would be the Johnny Mercer songbook album.

Anyway, take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of vintage jazz. You could demonstrate your stereo with a record this good. But what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo!

The First Lady of Song

Until about ten years ago I hadn’t run into a clean copy of the record. I had liked a Japanese pressing years before, but even the best Japanese pressings usually fall short of the better domestic copies in terms of warmth, richness, sweetness, naturalness and all the rest of the stuff that the Japanese don’t seem to care much about. (If you have a Japanese pressing of an album in your collection and you can’t beat it with a different import or domestic LP, you just not trying.)

But I digress. My local record store had one sitting in the bin one day many years ago in lovely condition, presenting me with the perfect opportunity to find out whether this Verve album from 1967 presented the early “good” Ella or the later “bad” Ella.

Because sometime in the later ’60s she started making bad records. I know. I’ve played them. Misty Blue comes to mind. Everything she ever did for Pablo comes to mind. Some of you out there have told me that you actually like some of her Pablo material, but I cannot share your enthusiasm for those recordings. In my opinion she had completely lost it by the time she hooked up with her old buddy Norman Granz in the ’70s.

Apparently I am not alone in this estimation. Just stumbled upon this quote today on Wikipedia:

Her 11 years on the Verve label had seen her make her most acclaimed recordings, critically and commercially. The jazz critic Will Friedwald described her pre-Verve work on Decca as “seeming a mere prelude”, and her “post-Verve years as an afterthought.”

This is the second to the last album she did for the label, and the last one recorded for them in the studio. In our opinion she left on a high note.

Marty Paich, Arranger Extraordinaire

On the cover of this record Ella ooks a little frumpy; I was afraid this album was going to be frumpy too. I’m glad to say that the opposite is true. This album swings with the best she’s ever recorded. A lot of the credit must go to Marty Paich, one of my all-time favorite arrangers. I have been a big fan of his ever since I first heard what he did for Art Pepper on his Modern Jazz Classics record on Contemporary from way back in 1959. The arrangements on Whisper Not just solidify my love for the guy’s work.

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