Record #381: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis (1956)

Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait…
But seriously, the pairing of Ella Fitzgerald’s velveteen alto with Louis Armstrong’s trumpet/voice hybrid (he somehow manages to sound the same whether he’s playing or singing) is so perfect that it’s amazing that it took so long to happen.

At this point, Miles Davis had already taken jazz from Charlie Parker, who had taken the mantle from Louis Armstrong before him. Satchmo had been doing this for thirty years. Ella for twenty. Both were undisputed icons. This duet series was a massive collision of supergiants.

But you’d never guess at its importance based on the absolute preciousness of the album cover. Nor is its gravity betrayed anywhere in the music. Ella and Louis croon and gravel and play their way through the most popular standards of the day with giddy playfulness. 

And these tunes have endured–Gershwins and Irving Berlin have a fair amount of representation here, so that’s no surprise. There’s also the absolute classic April in Paris, which is correctly remembered as one of this era’s pinnacle tracks. Also included is a charming rendition of They Can’t Take That Away From Me, which is a personal favorite.

But overall, this album is perhaps the most charming thing ever recorded. It certainly doesn’t show either’s technical chops, nor does it have to. It’s merely a perfect example of what these two megastars do better than anyone.

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