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THE BIG BET, PART 2
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Critics' Choice
ELLA AT 100: UME/VERVE
SWINGS INTO ACTION
3/13/17

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.