Ella at Juan-Les-Pins

One of the forgotten live LPs from the career of vocal jazz’s most impressive live artist, Ella at Juan-Les-Pins found Ella Fitzgerald at the Fifth Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, France, in July 1964, working with a great group: trumpeter Roy Eldridge, pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Bill Yancey, and drummer Gus Johnson. The group doesn’t get as much space as they deserve, but with Fitzgerald a commanding presence, it’s hardly ever felt. And she does give the appreciative crowd the show they’re looking for; whereas most vocalists have treated songs like “Them There Eyes” and “Perdido” as features for their playful side, Fitzgerald simply rips them apart with twisting, turning wordplay, breakneck tempos the band can hardly keep up with, and scats no listener can digest the first or second time through. She wrings all the selfish joi de vivre from “The Lady Is a Tramp” (addressing herself), then, with barely a pause, moves into a carefully paced “Summertime.” Two recent crossovers, Barbra Streisand’s “People” and the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love,” serve as pleasant stopgap items between the real show, and Fitzgerald reprises her legend-making rendition of “Mack the Knife” from Ella in Berlin, describing the entire sorted Brecht-to-Darin-to-Armstrong history of the song while never losing her sense of swing. Throughout, she never fails to energize or charm her audience.

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