Season three of M stands for music is back with a new episode offering an in-depth look at by Ella Fitzgerald new live version of seminal archives, Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook.
Host Daryl Easlea kicks off the episode with a bit of context on Ella, saying, “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Ella Fitzgerald; in 1956, after spending more than 20 years in the business, her manager, producer Norman Granz, established Verve Records—to become one of the most beloved and revered labels in jazz—around her.
“On top of that, he and Ella dreamed up a step away from the be-bop she had been singing so beautifully for years, in the Songbook series, bringing her gravitas to great contemporary composers – the trend started in 1956 when she released the period album, Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter songbook.”
Easlea also offers context for Fitzgerald’s appearance at the famed Los Angeles venue, saying, “Although accustomed to ballrooms and clubs, in 1956 Fitzgerald made his Hollywood Bowl debut. The concert captivated 20,000 spectators until well after midnight, was a huge success. From then on, Fitzgerald was invited to appear regularly in the Bowl.
“During her lifetime, Fitzgerald performed at the Bowl in various formats, including with her trio and, in the rare event of August 16, 1958, with a full orchestra led by [Paul] Weston, who had organized the Fitzgerald’s Songbook album.
New York Times critic Frank Rich said that Ella “performed a cultural transaction as extraordinary as Elvis’ contemporary integration of the white and African-American soul: here is a black woman popularizing urban songs often written by Jewish immigrants to a nationwide audience of predominantly white Christians.”
In 2021, an intriguing painting – believed to be a copy of a famous work – was discovered in the dusty closet of a Maine home. Later, an auctioneer gave the relatives of the late owner the shock of their lives: their great-aunt had hidden a previously unknown Picasso original, a model of his greatest work “Le Tricorne”, in a cupboard for fifty years. . That’s what it was, according to Grammy-winning producer and drummer Gregg Field, when he came across an unreleased recording of Ella Fitzgerald perform the Irving Berlin songbook live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1958. For more than fifty years, analog tapes of this performance remained in the private collection of Fitzgerald’s director-producer and Verve Records founder Norman Granz.
“Ella is still, to this day, one of the most important female jazz vocalists…and to have something of the magnitude of [a live performance at] the Hollywood Bowl with an orchestra…I mean, it’s a real treasure,” said Field, who produced and mixed the new version, Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook.