The centennial of Ella Fitzgerald's birthday has been celebrated throughout this year and is culminated with the release of SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, featuring digitally remastered vocal tracks from Ella's original Decca and Verve recordings paired with newly orchestrated and arranged performances by the London Symphony Orchestra. Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter duets with Ella on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "People Will Say We're In Love" from the Broadway musical "Oklahoma." Oscar and Grammy Award winning arranger Jorge Calandrelli collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra on the several tracks as well as James Morgan and Juliette Pochin, who also produced the record. James Morgan and Jorge Calandrelli share conducting credits for the project and the symphony sessions were recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London.
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME presents Ella Fitzgerald at the height of her vocal powers during her prolific and historical relationship with Decca and continuing with Verve, founded by Ella's manager Norman Granz in 1956 for the express purpose of providing the "First Lady of Song" with a home for her musical legacy. The songlist covers the period from 1950 to 1961 among them "Misty," "Bewitched," "These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)," "I Get A Kick Out of You," from The Cole Porter Songbook, Ella's first recording for Verve in 1956, as well as two duets with Louis Armstrong on "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" and "They Can't Take Away From Me," from their classic recordings together. The title track, a poignant and mesmerizing portrait of Ella's singular talents, originally appeared on her first studio album in with Ellis Larkins, Ella Sings Gershwin.
Gregory Porter commented on Ella's influence during the recording, "For me, I think Ella's influence on the current state of jazz is significant in that many singers, both male and female try to achieve the clarity and beauty of her sound. She had this gorgeous, pure light voice and yet, she could get down and dirty with a song and she would just really let go and turn into a blues singer."
Producers Juliette Pochin and James Morgan's mandate for SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME was to focus on the early mono recordings. "We deliberately chose Ella's early recordings from the Decca and Verve recordings since mono tracks gave us the potential to do something transformative with the sound. These early recordings were very sparse, with often only Ellis Larkins on piano, or a small band that included Ella's husband Ray Brown on bass. As a result, the minimal instrumental immediately opened up lots of possibilities for adding an orchestra," Juliette explains. Great care was taken to only enhance the original recordings so that the new orchestral additions added color and warmth and did not dominate the end result. Additionally, since extracting vocals from a mono recording is a near-impossible undertaking, the producers were careful not to compromise Ella's vocals just to obtain a "clean" vocal track.
"Oftentimes the choice was made to leave in an Ellis Larkins piano riff rather than impact the quality of the original vocal, so instead we would echo the riff with the orchestra so it sounded entirely natural," says Juliette. James Morgan adds, "For tracks where we didn't need to extract the vocal, we were forever giving thanks for the incredible quality of the original recordings - the vocal right up front, rich and warm. We constantly marvelled at how amazing, faultless and natural her vocal sounded without all the so-called expertise we use to record in this day and age." The recording was mixed at Medley Studios in Copenhagen, where Ella spent much time during her lifetime. During the mixing, the producers kept hearing a noise they could not identify until one of the engineers realized it was the sound of Louis Armstrong fiddling with his trumpet valves - which they decided to leave in.
Earlier in the year, Verve and UMe celebrated Ella Fitzgerald's centennial with a slate of releases including a new 4CD box set titled 100 Songs For A Centennial as well as Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books, a limited edition 6LP vinyl box set recreating the original LP collection, plus rare bonus tracks. This month, Verve will also release Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong / Cheek to Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings on October 13. Later in the year, Verve will issue Ella At Zardi's, a previously unreleased live album recorded at the famed nightclub on February 2, 1956 - two days before the sessions for Verve's first official LP release, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook.
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