In the late 1970s and I can’t even tell you if this live performance ( YT video stated 1979 Special ) your hearing is the actual performance I watched or not. It seemed what I watched was on a PBS Special and it was with the Count Basie Orchestra and the Billy May arrangement. But I’m telling you I sat there and my mouth dropped open and I was totally absolutely mesmerized. I couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing. That phrasing, that dead on every single up and down note of range. Ella Fitzgerald blew this song completely apart.
Now I had heard 20 or more renditions of this song throughout life at that point and heard a ton of songs that Miss Ella had sung. But never in my life had I heard this particular rendition the way she did it that night. I mean she originally recorded it in 1958 off her “Ella Swings Lightly” album. It gained her a Grammy in 1960 for Best Improvised Jazz Solo. It was also on her 1961 album “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook (1961)” only it was a 7:14 second version with a studio orchestra conducted and arranged by Billy May.
And Ironically Ella’s versions never ever charted. Were they tone-deaf? Or just not color blind enough.
In 1941 Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer wrote the entire score for the film “Blues in the Night” and it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and it lost out to a song not even written for a motion picture. And the composer Jerome Kern who won but never attended the awards was so appalled that his song “The Last Time I Saw Paris” did win with a song that had not been specifically written for a motion picture he petitioned the Motion Picture Academy to change the rules. Since then, a nominated song has to have been written specifically for the motion picture in which it is performed.
So the only singers who did chart with “Blues in the Night” were Dinah Shore (1941) & Rosemary Clooney (1952). Instrumentals that charted were Woody Herman, Jimmie Lunceford, Cab Calloway and Artie Shaw. Shirley Bassey and Helen Shapiro had their recordings released in the UK.
But how in the world Ella’s Fitzgerald’s never charted after it was released was beyond me, especially the 1961 version that exploded.
Nobody and I mean nobody could touch her version. She owned this song lock, stock & barrel. Never has their been a singer since her that even came close and never will again. How could there?
She sings this song with such a unique vocal arrangement of her own, I mean perfectly spotted notes within notes and ranges off in space, Ella made it a Masterpiece and it will remain that way until we all drop off the face of the earth for good.
How in the hell can you get it any better. Ella Fitzgerald with The Count Basie Orchestra. Class on top of more Class. Something that the American Idol generation will never get if they live to be a thousand. Because this epitomizes the legendary giants of……
When It Was Music!
At the 3:40 mark and on…..Lord Have Mercy.
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Some of Ella Fitzgerald’s Awards:
6 songs Grammy Hall of Fame
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award
Pied Piper Award
George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America
National Medal of Art
The first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named “Ella” in her honor (1989)
George and Ira Gershwin Award for Outstanding Achievement
Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award
More Than Hot Jazzy ~ Blues