Recorded live at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on January 21, 1956, Ella At The Shrine captures Ella Fitzgerald at the beginning of her career renaissance, just weeks after becoming the first signing to Norman Granz's newly-created Verve Records. The brief but thrilling set, which was part of Granz's historic Jazz At The Philharmonic concert series, was only recently discovered after more than 60 years of languishing in Verve's vaults. Thought to be Verve's first live recording, Ella At The Shrine is available today via Verve/UMe as a single LP on standard weight black vinyl. It will be available for digital download and streaming for the first time next Friday, March 1. This wide release follows a limited edition yellow vinyl version released in November 2018 as part of Record Store Day's Black Friday.
Ella At the Shrine contains the sweet taste of a new and shining era for Ella as she becomes the crown jewel of Verve Records. Fitzgerald delivers a rousing seven-song set, which most notably includes an early version of George and Ira Gershwin's "'S Wonderful," three years before she would perfect the song on her monumental 1959 album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book and cause Ira Gershwin to famously remark: "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them." Ella At the Shrine showcases The First Lady of Song just weeks before she'd go on to record her breakthrough album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book. Other tunes performed this evening include the bluesy "Cry Me A River," the rhythmic "Lullaby of Birdland," the swinging "Joe Williams's Blues" and "Air Mail Special," a bouncy number featuring Fitzgerald's famed scatting skills. The album includes liner notes by jazz broadcaster and educator, Phil Schaap, who discovered this recording in an undocumented area in Verve's vault where it sat untouched for more than six decades.
In celebration of Fitzgerald's centennial in 2017, Verve debuted the previously unreleased Ella at Zardi's: an acclaimed live album that was recorded during her two-week stint at the nightclub in Hollywood. This recording, which earned Fitzgerald her first No. 1 on the Jazz Album Chart and her second No. 1 on the Traditional Jazz Albums Chart, was initially thought to be both the label's and Fitzgerald's first live album for Verve. Remarkably, Granz recorded and emceed Ella at the Shrine 10 days prior, announcing on the LP, as Fitzgerald is leaving the stage and the crowd roars for more, that "Ella has to get back to Zardi's." Due to the closeness in timeframe, it is easy to assume she is backed by the same musicians who played on Ella at Zardi's: Don Abney, piano; Vernon Alley or Joe Mondragon, bass; Frank Capp Drums.
Fitzgerald's unwaning influence and remarkable legacy remains as strong as ever and her music continues to be honored and celebrated long after her passing. Most recently, the Recording Academy inducted her landmark 1959 album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books into the 2019's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame®, just ahead of its 60th anniversary. With a goal of "preserving and celebrating timeless recordings," the inductions are for recordings at least 25 years old that exhibit qualitative or historical significance. Fitzgerald's album was one of 25 new titles inducted this year alongside recordings from: Aerosmith, Dolly Parton, Fats Domino, Frank Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Tom Petty. "We're honored to add these masterpieces to our growing catalog and are delighted to celebrate the impact they've had on our musical, social, and cultural history," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books is her third song book to join the illustrious GRAMMY Hall Of Fame®, joining Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book and Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers & Hart Song Book as well as several other albums and songs. In its recent appreciation of Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Gershwin Song Book, the Wall Street Journal asserted: "Fitzgerald's most ambitious album and one of her crowning achievements, this songbook is a matchless treasure."