Local Wire

Various Artists

Here's an all-star tribute to the jazzy queen of the American songbook, Ella Fitzgerald. Check these creds: produced by legendary A&R Recording studios founder Phil Ramone; arrangements by Billy Childs (formerly of Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's band) and Rob Mounsey (whose horn arrangements include Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al"); and a band that includes tenor trombonist Birch Johnson (the Blues Brothers Band), drummer Lewis Nash (Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins), and lauded session saxophone player Roger Rosenberg. Fifteen of Fitzgerald's favorite standards are honored here by some of the best performers in the pop and jazz world. Queen Latifah, who already displayed her smooth jazz chops on her Dana Owens Album, glides through a popping rendition of "The Lady Is a Tramp." k.d. lang lends her powerful pipes to "Angel Eyes," wrapping her Roy Orbison-esque tenor around a sexy sax solo from Tim Scott. Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan tear up "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It" — in a good way — and the incomparable Etta James brings a smoky, soulful wallop to "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me." Contemporary jazzbos get in on it, too, as Diana Krall teams up with Hank Jones for a sparkling version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me," and Michael Bublé tackles "Too Close for Comfort." But the best moment here comes from New Orleans in 1977, when Stevie Wonder brought Fitzgerald herself onstage to record a live duet of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." This track, complete with lyrical confusion and laughter at the beginning of verse two, captures the enduring spirit of Fitzgerald better than any tribute. Wonder and Fitzgerald swap a storm of scats four minutes into the jam, in what has got to be one of the greatest American music moments ever caught on tape.
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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea