- With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it for all four sides, this glorious 1956 mono recording is superb from first note to last
- Full-bodied, musical, and smooth, with surprisingly spacious orchestral staging – this is just the right sound for this album and especially this kind of music
- “The combination of Ella and Porter is irresistible and whether up-tempo or down-tempo, Ella’s three-octave range voice soars effortlessly as she makes each song come to life. It was all helped by the cream of L.A. session men and Buddy Bregman’s arrangement that oozes sophistication way beyond his twenty-four years. It is a perfect record.” – Richard Havers
he space is HUGE and the sound so rich. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies.
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 a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily 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.
What the best sides of this wonderful Norman Granz produced recording [released on my second birthday if you can believe that!] have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the mono tapes in 1956
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the arrangements from becoming shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all.
We’re glad to report this copy was doing pretty much everything we wanted it to do.
And we know a fair bit about Ella’s recordings at this point. As of today we’ve done commentaries for sixteen different Ella Fitzgerald albums, and that’s not counting the sixteen (yes, 16!) titles we put in our Hall of Shame.
We’ve searched high and low for her records and played them by the score over the years. We plan to keep a good supply on to the site in the coming years so watch for new arrivals in the Vocal section (linked to the left).
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.
All Through The Night
Miss Otis Regrets
Too Darn Hot
In The Still Of The Night
I Get A Kick Out Of You
Do I Love You
Always True To You In My Fashion
Let’s Do It
Just One Of Those Things
Every Time We Say Good-Bye
All Of You
Begin The Beguine
Get Out Of Town
I Am In Love
From This Moment On
I Love Paris
You Do Something To Me
Easy To Love
It’s All Right With Me
Why Can’t You Behave
What Is This Thing Called Love?
You’re The Top
Love For Sale
Night And Day
Ace In The Hole
So In Love
I’ve Got You Under My Skin
I Concentrate On You
Don’t Fence Me In
Reviewed in udiscovermusic.com
By Richard Havers
On 7 February 1956, two weeks after Ella Fitzgerald’s first session for Verve records, she was back in the studio with Buddy Bregman and an orchestra recording what is arguably the defining record of her career, one that helped Verve to become the quintessential jazz label of the 1950s.
Ella, Norman Granz and Bregman went to Capitol’s studio in Hollywood and spent three days recording what was to be Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook. The combination of Ella and Porter is irresistible and whether up-tempo or down-tempo, Ella’s three-octave range voice soars effortlessly as she makes each song come to life. It was all helped by the cream of L.A. session men and Buddy Bregman’s arrangement that oozes sophistication way beyond his twenty-four years. It is a perfect record.
“I realized then that there was more to music than bop. Norman felt that I should do other things, so he produced the Cole Porter Songbook for me. It was a turning point in my life.” – Ella Fitzgerald
Granz had initially wanted Nelson Riddle to do the arrangements for Ella, but he refused, probably because he was committed to Frank Sinatra’s recording career at this point. Granz, while taking a chance on Bregman, would later reveal to his biographer Ted Hershorn that he was not at all bothered about the band’s arrangements. It was all about Ella’s voice.
“When I recorded Ella, I always put her out front, not a blend. The reason was that I frankly didn’t care about what happened to the music.” – Norman Granz
That thinking does a disservice to Bregman’s arrangements; they provide the perfect musical cushion and accentuate the melodies of Porter’s wonderful songs. Among the cream of West Coast session musicians, many of whom graced the fabulous recordings that Frank Sinatra was making around the same time, are trumpeter Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, Milt Bernhart’s trombone, Herb Geller, Ted Nash and Bud Shank doubling on clarinets and saxophone, as well as trumpeter Maynard Ferguson.
Two weeks before recording Ella’s version of ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, Edison and Bernhart had recorded Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of the song with Sinatra, the one featuring the trombonist’s fabulous solo.
The thirty-two tracks, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook, came out on 15 May 1956 as a double album and sold for $9.96. By July it had made No. 15 on the Billboard Best Sellers list after Verve had taken an extensive advertising campaign in Esquire, The New Yorker, High Fidelity and a dozen Sunday Newspapers across America. In September Ella was the headliner on the annual JATP autumn tour of America. By the end of the year the double LP was No. 18 on the list of Best Sellers for the whole year, one that was dominated by soundtrack albums.
If for any reason you’ve never listened to this album you are missing one of the great recordings of the 20th century, if you have heard it you’ll know what they’ve been missing…
Mono – Good and Bad
Like this wonderful Ella recording from 1956, here are some other records that have the potential to sound amazing in MONO.
Here are some records that we don’t think sound very good in MONO.