Ella Fitzgerald – Live at Chautauqua Vol. 2
Dot Time Legends SKU: DT8004 CD review by Nick Davies)
April 25th 2017 would have marked the late great Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday and, to mark this milestone in jazz history, Dot Time Records have released Ella Fitzgerald Live at Chautauqua Vol. 2. This album is a recording of the sold-out July 1968 concert and features Tee Carson and his trio (Keter Betts on bass and Joe Harris on drums).
All of Ella’s standards are performed, along with some new songs. In honour of Dr Martin Luther King, she performed He had a Dream, especially poignant because Dr King had previously spoken at the same Amphitheatre and this show came only a few short months after his death. It is very difficult to critique the legendary Ella Fitzgerald who, with her beautiful voice, makes such extraordinary singing seem easy. Her music is classy and her scatting style is an example to any up and coming singer. The album opens with Satin Doll which sets the tone for what is to come. Ella is a master performer in every single track, transporting the listener back to the sixties, with each song delivered to an incredibly high standard. Equally, Tee Carson and his Trio’s performance with Ella is so tight, it’s easy to forget that they weren’t her permanent band.
Despite the incredible positives, sadly there are a few negatives. It is well known that, at this time, Chautauqua did not record any of its live concerts so the audio here is not an official record. Although the priest in charge of sound engineering on that day was given permission by Ella to record that particular performance, the equipment used was clearly not ideal as the sound quality throughout is very poor. Ella’s voice is frequently lost with the band drowning it out and, at other times, both the band and Ella’s voice are either very loud or too low. In Day in Day Out, Ella is barely audible but thankfully, nearer the end of the track, it is clearer. The sound reproduction is tinny and conversation with the audience sounds muffled. It’s obvious this is not a professional production.
Overall this is good release, ripe for Ella collectors. The singing and musicality is outstanding; what you would expect from an icon. On the other hand, the poor audio quality of this release would leave audio purists dissatisfied however, having said that, this concert is a historical archive and should be treated as such.