Ella Fitzgerald And Louis Armstrong’s New 4CD Set, “Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings,” Out November 10

By the time Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong collaborated on their first duet together, they were each already jazz giants. Fitzgerald was an acclaimed solo artist for Decca with many hits and more than 200 songs under her young belt, first with the Chick Webb Orchestra and then as leader of her own big band. Armstrong, known affectionately as Pops, was one of the leading singers, trumpet players and entertainers of the day; a star of both sound and screen. Together their talent knew no bounds and propelled them further to stardom, and today are some of the biggest highlights of both of their extraordinary careers.

For the first time, all of Fitzgerald and Armstrong’s classic duets are in one place: Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings, a new 4CD and digital set will be available November 10. Part of Ella 100, Verve Records/UMe’s yearlong celebration of Fitzgerald’s centennial, the 75-track collection gathers their three timeless Verve albums – newly remastered versions of Ella and Louis, Ella and Louis Again and Porgy and Bess – along with all of their Decca singles, live recordings from Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl, recorded as a warmup for Ella and Louis, plus several alternates and false starts from the Decca and Verve eras, illuminating their craft and good humor. Cheek To Cheek also includes unreleased material: “The Memphis Blues,” with Bing Crosby, from his radio show; several takes of Armstrong’s solo showcase, “Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess;” and an instrumental mix of “Red-Headed Woman.” The comprehensive collection is rounded out with extensive essay by Ricky Riccardi, the world’s leading authority on Armstrong, plus detailed annotations and rare images from the archives.

Armstrong and Fitzgerald were first paired together by Decca label head Milt Gabler when they were both recording for the label. For the inaugural session in January 1946, Gabler had them cut the new song “You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)” and a recent Nat King Cole hit, “The Frim Fram Sauce.” The former became a jukebox hit and hinted at the magic they could create together. Over the next few years they would reunite for a string of singles – all eight are presented here in order of release – before recording their first album together. Fitzgerald’s manager Norman Granz, on the heels of founding Verve Records with his highly successful first release, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book, put Fitzgerald and Armstrong in the studio on August 16, 1956 to record the entire eleven-song Ella and Louis album in a day. The record was a critical and commercial success when released in the fall of 1956. Down Beat gave it five stars and, in November, the album hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz charts. The night before recording the album, Fitzgerald and Armstrong performed together at the Hollywood Bowl, and these rare, impromptu performances of “You Won’t Be Satisfied,” along with “Undecided,” marking their earliest collaborative recordings for Granz, are included on the fourth disc.

Knowing he needed to get them back in the studio as soon as possible, Granz recorded them in several ambitious sessions from July 23 to August 19, resulting in the follow up album Ella and Louis Again as well as Porgy and Bess, the folk opera with music and lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin. Ella and Louis Again once again captured their chemistry and resulted in the irresistible “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off,” the joyful “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” and “Autumn In New York,” one of their finest ballad performances. They also each turned in separate solo features, notably extended interpretations of “These Foolish Things” by Fitzgerald and “Let’s Do It” by Armstrong. The sessions for Porgy and Bessincluded their final four duets. The recordings capture their teamwork at the peak of its powers, exemplified in the way they seamlessly traded roles of singing and scatting on “Summertime” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” Granz held the album until 1959, when the big-budget film version was in theaters, and it was another success.

In addition to gathering all of Fitzgerald and Armstrong’s duets, Cheek To Cheek also gives a unique opportunity to hear what it was like to be in the studio with these two titans. The closing disc is rife with a bevy of alternate takes and false starts, displaying their camaraderie, with many previously unreleased, until now.

The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation
The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation was created and funded in 1993 by Ella Fitzgerald in order to fulfill her desires to use the fruits of her success to help people of all races, cultures and beliefs. Fitzgerald hoped to make their lives more rewarding, and she wanted to foster a love of reading, as well as a love of music. In addition, she hoped to provide assistance to the at-risk and disadvantaged members of our communities – assistance that would enable them to achieve a better quality of life. The Board of Directors of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation seeks to continue Ella Fitzgerald’s goals by making charitable grants serving four major areas of interest:

  1. creating educational and other opportunities for children
  2. fostering a love and knowledge of music, including assistance to students of music
  3. the provision of health care, food, shelter and counseling to those in need
  4. specific areas of medical care and research with an emphasis on Diabetes, vision problems and heart disease

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings

Disc 1

The Decca Singles
1.   You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)
2.   The Frim Fram Sauce
3.   Dream A Little Dream Of Me
4.   Can Anyone Explain? (No, No, No!)
5.   Necessary Evil
6.   Oops!
7.   Who Walks in When I Walk Out
8.   Would You Like to Take a Walk (Sump’n Good’ll Come From That)

Ella and Louis
9.   Can’t We Be Friends
10. Isn’t This A Lovely Day
11. Moonlight In Vermont
12. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
13. Under A Blanket Of Blue
14. Tenderly
15. A Foggy Day
16. Stars Fell On Alabama
17. Cheek to Cheek
18. The Nearness of You
19. April In Paris

Disc 2

Ella and Louis Again
1.   Don’t Be That Way
2.   Makin’ Whoopee
3.   They All Laughed
4.   Comes Love
5.   Autumn In New York
6.   Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)
7.   Stompin’ At The Savoy
8.   I Won’t Dance
9.   Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You
10. Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
11. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)
12. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
13. Willow Weep For Me
14. I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket
15. A Fine Romance
16. Ill Wind
17. Love Is Here To Stay

Disc 3

Ella and Louis Again (cont’d.)
1.   I Get A Kick Out Of You
2.   Learnin’ The Blues

Porgy And Bess
3.   Overture
4.   Summertime
5.   I Wants To Stay Here
6.   My Man’s Gone Now
7.   I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’
8.   The Buzzard Song
9.   Bess, You Is My Woman Now
10. It Ain’t Necessarily So
11. What You Want Wid Bess?
12. A Woman Is A Sometime Thing
13. Oh, Doctor Jesus
14. Medley: Here Come Da Honey Man/Crab Man/Oh, Dey’s So Fresh And Fine
15. There’s A Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon For New York
16. Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?
17. Oh Lawd, I’m On My Way

Disc 4: Bonus Tracks

Ella and Louis Live
1.   The Memphis Blues (Live from The Chesterfield Show) with Bing Crosby *
2.   You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart) (Live at the Hollywood Bowl)
3.   Undecided (Live at the Hollywood Bowl)

Decca Extras
4.   You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart) false start and breakdown
5.   The Frim Fram Sauce false starts/takes 1 and 2 *
6.   The Frim Fram Sauce alternate take

Ella and Louis Again Extras
7.   Makin’ Whoopee take 1
8.   Makin’ Whoopee take 2
9.   I Get A Kick Out Of You take 2 (run-through) and take 3 (breakdown)
10. I Get A Kick Out Of You take 4
11. I Get A Kick Out Of You take 13
12. Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) take 3
13. Willow Weep For Me take 4

Porgy And Bess Extras
14. I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ (mono master)
15. A Woman Is A Sometime Thing (mono master)
16. Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?  takes 5 and 6
17. Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess? take 7
18. Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?  take 8 *
19. Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?  take 9 *
20. Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?  insert for take 9 *
21. Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?  take 10 *
22. Red-Headed Woman instrumental *
* Previously unreleased