Following the limited-edition Record Store Day release of Ella Fitzgerald’s unreleased 1956 album Ella At Zardi’s on pink and blue vinyl, which earned Fitzgerald her first No. 1 on the 24-year-old Jazz Albums Chart and her second No. 1 on the Traditional Jazz Albums chart, the acclaimed live album will receive a wide release as a double LP on black vinyl on August 17 via Verve/UMe.
First released on CD and digital in December 2017, the album capped-off a year-long celebration of the jazz legend’s centennial. The collection earned rave reviews and topped many year-end lists including the Los Angeles Times and NPR who exclaimed, “It’s a real find: two sets of blithe vocal brilliance recorded in a club in 1956, before Ella became a trademark,” continuing, “Get this to savor Fitzgerald’s assured sense of swing, and unmatched (still!) vocal dexterity.”
Recorded on February 2, 1956 at Zardi’s Jazzland in Hollywood, Ella At Zardi’s features the entirety of the evening’s two-set, 21-song performance, which captures an inspired Fitzgerald, backed by a stellar trio comprised of pianist Don Abney, bassist Vernon Alley and drummer Frank Capp, singing and swinging in front of an animated, adoring crowd, just days before she’d go on to record the album that would catapult her to stardom. The concert was originally recorded by Norman Granz to celebrate the creation of, and Fitzgerald’s signing to, Verve Records, which Granz founded largely to give Fitzgerald the attention that he felt she wasn’t receiving at her then-current label, Decca. Ella At Zardi’s was planned as the label’s inaugural release but shelved in favor of the now-classic studio album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book, which kicked off a best-selling, signature series of Song Book releases. The Zardi’s tapes languished in Verve’s vaults for six decades.
Ella At Zardi’s captures the brilliance and inspiration Fitzgerald’s performances embodied at the time. As veteran jazz journalist Kirk Silsbee observes in the album’s liner notes, “We can hear a fluid and joyous singer who operates with almost giddy authority. Ella manages to find a way of swinging almost every number, no matter the tempo. She anticipates her studio songbook albums with Duke Ellington’s ‘In A Mellow Tone,’ Cole Porter’s ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy,’ the Gershwins’ ‘S’Wonderful’ and ‘I’ve Got a Crush On You,’ and Jerome Kern’s ‘A Fine Romance’… Ella uses her intelligent phrasing and rhythmic sense in inventive and exhilarating ways. Her repertoire was vast and she didn’t always remember the correct lyrics of a song. But the way she spontaneously redesigns the text in the most musical of ways is Fitzgerald’s signature.”