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by Josh Friedberg
No one swung a song like Ella Fitzgerald. The “First Lady of Song” earned her reputation as a “musician’s singer” because of her unparalleled facility with scat singing and her relentless rhythmic attack on songs like “Blue Skies” and “How High the Moon.” She could, of course, also sing with a sweet, lovely tone that could make you melt on a ballad.
But by the mid-1970s, her voice had lost some of its legendary pristine clarity. But she could still swing like nobody else. And on Ella in London, recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s nightclub in 1974, the adoring audience and the first-class material spur Ella on to create an exceptionally enjoyable live album—on par with the more well-known Mack the Knife: Ella in Berlin from 1960, and perhaps even more consistently surprising than that classic.
Originally a "girl singer" leading drummer Chick Webb's big band in the 1930s, Jazz vocal giant Ella Fitzgerald transformed into the iconic "First Lady of Song" during the '50s and '60s, in large part because of her Song Book albums for Verve Records. Highlighting the work of individual songwriters and teams like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin, these album helped build Fitzgerald's reputation in mainstream pop circles and solidified her legendary status in jazz as a joyful "musician's singer."