|Ella Fitzgerald. The pianist (left) is Ellis Larkins|
Last month the release was announced of Someone to Watch over Me – Ella with The London Symphony Orchestra. Walter Houser, who remembers Ella’s visits to Ronnie Scott’s club vividly, objects:
As we know this year marks the centenary of the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald. On account of my age and long association with Ronnie Scott’s Club and the fact that I had actually met her I was privileged to be interviewed by the BBC, aired on her actual birthday, 25 April.
I met Ella for the first time when she appeared at the club. This was a very exciting time for Ronnie, Pete King and me. She came with a fearsome reputation for being difficult. She was not. Her only demand was that her dressing room should have a toilet which it didn’t so we cut through the wall into the office and built in a toilet, thereafter always referred to as Ella’s Crapper. Of course I could not say that in the BBC interview. It was toned down to Ella’s Loo which misses the whole point.
Anyway, Ella was a sweetie. At the end of her very successful engagement we gave her a silver salver suitably engraved and she actually cried.
Of late, I began to hear about a new album that had been made using a couple of albums made in the early ’50s. One was Ella singing George Gershwin songs and the other was various songs from the Great American Songbook. Both albums featured just Ella and her piano accompanist. It seems that some technical whizz has been able to lift just the voice tracks from the albums and re-record them with the backing of the LSO. I have heard a couple of the tracks and the technical expertise is mind-blowing and the results are very pleasing. Now comes the “but”, in my view. Why has this been done? What purpose does it serve?
The original tracks are miniature masterpieces .What has been done is like drawing a crayon moustache on a Rembrandt portrait.
The pianist whose work was been thrown away so casually was Ellis Larkins, the jazz equivalent of Gerald Moore
I think the whole thing is disrespectful.
The arrangements on Someone To Watch Over Me are by Jorge Calandrelli. Gregory Porter duets with Ella on People Will Say We’re In Love. Producers were James Morgan and Juliette Pochin. James Morgan and Jorge Calandrelli, conductors. Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Mixed at Medley Studios, Copenhagen.
LINK: News piece about the release of Someone to Watch over Me – Ella with The London Symphony Orchestra (Universal / UMO)