The only time that Ella Fitzgerald ever performed the iconic orchestral arrangements from her classic tribute to Irving Berlin is finally being released as a live concert album.
Just a few months after she recorded Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook, the First Lady of Song performed selections from that album live to a sold-out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 16, 1958.
It’s the only time she ever performed the songs with a full orchestra, which was conducted and arranged by Paul Weston. (It was also the only time Fitzgerald worked in concert with Weston, who conducted and arranged the studio sessions.)
At the inaugural Grammy Awards in 1959, the studio album won Ella her first Grammy for best female vocal performance and earned her a nomination for album of the year.
However, it wasn’t widely known — until the discovery of these tapes in the private collection of producer and Verve Records founder Norman Granz — that the legendary vocalist had ever performed any of those arrangements in concert, let alone that they were recorded.
The full, never-before-released 15-song performance will be released under the title Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook. It’s coming June 24 in CD, vinyl and digital formats.
The live tracks were mixed from the original 1/4-inch tapes by Grammy-winning producer and musician Gregg Field, who played drums for Ella in her later years. The album package features liner notes about the concert and Ella’s Songbook series by author and music critic Will Friedwald.
Watch the animated video for Puttin’ on the Ritz: