Jazz Appreciation Month on WRTI: Classic Album of the Week is Ella & Louis

Apr 24, 2018

April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), so we're spotlighting albums that are the benchmarks of influence and popularity. Each week we're highlighting an album that deserves to be called classic; this week's treasure is the first collaboration between Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

It was August of 1956, and two of the most popular figures in American music were about to record in Norman Granz’s brand new Verve studio together. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong were being accompanied by some of the finest musicians in jazz – Oscar Peterson (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass) and Buddy Rich (drums). The product of the sessions was Ella and Louis, and it was so commercially successful that two records from this dynamic duo would follow.

Armstrong, at the time, concentrated mostly on his trumpet, playing regularly with his own trad jazz bands. This album was truly the brainchild of Granz, who wanted this to be about duets, and to have a modern sound (hence the addition of Oscar Peterson’s quartet). The trumpet didn’t disappear. It took a muted back seat to lovely singing on this collection of ballads.

Ella’s clarity and range paired with Louis’ gentle treatment of these love songs was a match made in jazz heaven. To music fans across the board, the first few notes of “Moonlight In Vermont” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” bring that familiarity from the compositions themselves, and the excitement that comes from the Ella/Louis dynamic. Oh, and they can both scat!

Ella's birthday is April 25th; she would have been 101. Check out Debra Lew Harder and Bob Craig's conversation about Ella that they recorded to commemorate her 100th birthday. We also have a collection of stories about the life of the First Lady of Song.