Michael Fremer Rated 10/11 Music, 10/11 Sonics!
Stereophile: Performance 4/5 Stars / Sonics 4.5/5 Stars
The First Lady of Song Returns to Berlin, Home of Her Legendary Concerts. Recorded in 1962 but NEVER released, hear the most popular jazz singer of all time deliver an iconic performance at Sportpalast Berlin for the first time.
This recording finds Ella and her band at the top of their game recorded in HIGH FIDELITY STEREO. With only two songs repeated from her hit record Mack The Knife two years earlier, this undiscovered recording stands on its own.
"This March 25, 1962 recording of Ella Fitzgerald performing live at Berlin's Sportpalast is remarkable for several reasons, starting with the then 44 year old's exuberant, high energy performance backed by the trio of Paul Smith on piano, Wilfred Middlebrooks on bass and Stan Levey on drums. Fitzgerald's closely miked, unadorned vocals are powerful, playful and models of phrasing perfection. She makes it sound easy, which of course it could not have been - especially since she often performed two hour-long shows on a single night in two different cities. The trio provides spacious, elegant beds - equally well-phrased - over which she soars, swoops and delivers a set of mostly joyful tunes. You could spend more than a few spins listening just to Smith's swinging backing (and you should). Two other reasons why this album is remarkable: one of which is that the stereo recording is absolutely spectacular (the 1960 recording was mono only). According to Ella's '80s era drummer Gregg Field (in a New Mexico NPR interview) who mixed the album, 'It was sitting in a vault all of these years. When we were handed the tape box, it still had the yellow scotch tape that hadn't been opened.' If they were able to mix the album, it must have been a 3 track master tape. It sure sounds that transparent and 'you are there' quality. And from the credits it appears that Ryan K. Smith cut it from a digital source. If that stops you from owning this on the double record set pressed at GZ Media on standard weight vinyl, your loss! The final reason why this is a remarkable document is consider the date: 1962. Twenty years earlier America was at war with Germany trying to defeat Hitler. Twenty years earlier in the same Sportpalast arena that could hold upwards of 14,000 people, Joseph Goebbels delivered his 'Total War' speech to a select audience of Nazi supporters. And here's Ella singing and swinging twenty years later to an adoring audience in the same hall that had been seriously damaged during the war (it was demolished in 1973). Remarkable, indeed." - Michael Fremer, Analog Planet, Music 10/11, Sound 10/11
Fitzgerald's closely miked, unadorned vocals are powerful, playful and models of phrasing perfection. She makes it sound easy, which of course it could not have been - especially since she often performed two hour-long shows on a single night in two different cities. The trio provides spacious, elegant beds - equally well-phrased - over which she soars, swoops and delivers a set of mostly joyful tunes. You could spend more than a few spins listening just to [Paul] Smith's swinging backing (and you should).
While the focus of any Fitzgerald concert is her voice, her trio supplies enthusiastic and nuanced support throughout with Smith offering a small jazz ensemble's worth of riffs to frame her vocals. With the discovery of Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes, fans now have a triumvirate of stellar live German concerts from Fitzgerald, each one showcasing just how immensely dazzling and quick-witted she could be.
...invaluable, even revelatory... The sound quality is excellent, a masterful digital processing of the original analog tapes. The rhythm section is sometimes distant but never muffled, and Ella's voice - indeed her presence - is vivid. This may be the best-sounding live Ella on record.
- Double LP
- First ever release
- Gatefold jacket
- Made in Canada
- Cheek To Cheek
- My Kind Of Boy
- Cry Me A River
- I Won't Dance
- Someone To Watch Over Me
- Jersey Bounce
- Angel Eyes
- Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!
- Taking A Chance On Love
- C'est Magnifique
- Good Morning Heartache
- Hallelujah, I Love Him So
- Hallelujah, I Love Him So [Reprise]
- Mr. Paganini
- Mack The Knife
- Wee Baby Blues