THE STRINGER ERA BEGINS
Rob picks up his keys to the kingdom on 4/3. (3/28a)
ACM boss talks Nashville (3/27a)
UNDERWOOD MOVES TO CAPITOL NASHVILLE
Grainge and Dungan lure the superstar (3/28a)
STREAMING SONGS: UNIVERSALLY DOMINANT
75% marketshare ... that's good, right? (3/24a)
Four days before the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitgerald’s birth, Verve and UMe will begin celebrating the First Lady of Song with four-CD box set titled 100 Songs For A Centennial and a limited edition six-LP Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books.
100 Songs For A Centennial, which comes out 4/21, starts in 1936 when Ella was singing with Chick Webb and his orchestra and spans her years with Decca and Verve. It includes he famous improvised version of “Mack The Knife” from 1960’s Ella in Berlin and her hits such as “Summertime,” “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
The Gershwin Song Books, recorded with Nelson Riddle and long considered the pinnacle of her recordings, is a replica of the five-LP set originally released in 1959. The set, in stereo, includes five lithographs by French impressionist painter Bernard Buffet, as well as the hardcover book, Words And Music, which has been updated with additional historical information and an afterword by writer David Ritz.
The sixth LP includes orchestra tracks, outtakes and a mono alternate take of “Oh, Lady Be Good!”
Later in the year, UMe will release Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Ella & Louis Duets, a four-CD set that combines Fitzgerald and Armstrong’s Decca singles, three Verve albums and bonus tracks. Verve will also release a new album featuring Fitzgerald’s classic vocals and new orchestral arrangements by the London Symphony Orchestra.
The eight albums that make up the Ella Fitzgerald Song Books were upgraded to various high-resolution audio formats last month. The 300 singles she recorded for Decca from 1935 to 1955 will be made available digitally in the form they were released (A side/B side) on 3/24 in four chronological volumes.
We were recently turned on to her version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The Gentleman is a Dope” on 1962’s Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson. Fingers crossed the Riddle sessions make it into the reissue program.
On Ella’s 100th birthday, 4/25, The Grammy Museum will open a new exhibit titled Ella At 100: Celebrating the Artistry of Ella Fitzgerald. The exhibit will include rare recordings, correspondence, photos, stage costumes and her Grammy Awards.
On 4/1, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in D.C. will open First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at 100, a year-long exhibit that will also feature awards, letters, sheet music and costumes. The Library of Congress will celebrate Ella with a concert by Dianne Reeves on 3/31.
By Simon Glickman
To answer your first question, no, I did not ever imagine I would be grooving ecstatically to music that was filled with Hare Krishna chanting—at least not to anything post-George Harrison. But life is full of surprises, and Jai Uttal’s new set, Roots, Rock, Rama! (Mantralogy), is simply undeniable.
If the spiritual content of this release, which brings timeless reggae, Tropicalia and soul influences to the Kirtan (call-and-response) tradition, sounds like a turnoff to you, I get it. Frankly, I consider all religion silly; that’s just me. And yet I’ve been reduced to rubble by many a gospel record. Why? Because regardless of the theology, the music hit me on a deep level.
And so it is with the exuberant jams on this devout album by Uttal, long a leading light of world music, who sings, plays guitar and leads an expert band through an array of intoxicating jams, many with playful acronyms as titles, such as H.A.R.I. (Hari Awakens Radha’s Incandescence).”
The vibe, especially on the rambunctious first half, often suggests early Toots and the Maytals jamming with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—devotional, lilting and fiercely funky. There’s even a spirited interpolation of The Beatles’ “Help” on “H.E.L.P. (Hari’s Ecstatic Love Potency),” in which a prayer for divine guidance repositions John Lennon’s plaint. There are also more delicate, Brazilian-influenced tracks, such as the lovely "Saudades de Radha," that provide a delicious cool-down after all that dancing.
Experiencing the music live at Hollywood’s Wanderlust was what sold me. Well-heeled yoga peeps, dreadlocked hippies, music geeks and leather-clad cosmopolites were all throwing down; the mood was as purely positive, inclusive and uplifting as any gig I can recall. And isn’t that exactly what we need these days?
If you know the chanting part to “My Sweet Lord” you already know half the lyrics on this record. But whatever your metaphysical bent (or lack thereof), I think you’ll feel Roots, Rock, Rama! It’s really good music.
Uttal and band will be performing at Spirit Rock in Marin on 3/18 and two fests in Joshua Tree, Shakti Fest (5/12-14) and Bhakti Fest (9/6-11). For more info, go here.
Nick Lowe and Ani DiFranco will be honored at A2IM’s sixth annual Libera Awards gala on 6/8 at New York’s PlayStation Theater in Times Square.
Lowe will receive A2IM's Independent Icon Award and DiFranco will be honored with its Lifetime Achievement Award. A2IM, represents more than 400 independent music labels, gives out 19 awards at its ceremony in categories such as Breakthrough Artist and Best Live Act.
The event is the capstone of A2IM's Indie Week music conference, which takes place 6/5-6/8. This year, attendees are expected from more than 20 countries.
Ted Leo will be the host of the Libera Awards for a second year. “The world of independent labels is still where the best stuff happens, and I'm glad to still be a part of that world," he said.
Tickets for Indie Week and the Libera Awards are available for the first time to both members and non-members. For tickets and pricing structure, click here.