Ella Sings the Gershwin Songbook

Reviewed by mojo

This is another must-have if you are an Ella fan, a Nelson Riddle fan and/or a Gershwin fan. Nearly three hours of music--some standards, some obscurities. Ira Gershwin himself helped the project, and is famously quoted for saying that he had "never known how good our songs were until I heard Ella sing them".

My only complaint would be, Ella doesn't seem to be having as much fun here as she would or could be on some of the songs. I wondered about this myself until I played a few samples to an Ella-loving student of mine, who didn't want to offend me but ended up saying, "They make her sound like Doris Day." In retrospect I kind of agree--and when you put these songs on a mix tape with others, you also realize they put in so much reverb it sounds at times like it was recorded in a pipe.

Still, it's pretty darned awesome. The scope and breadth of this project takes your breath away.

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook

Year Recorded: 

From Wikipedia:


Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook is a 1959 (see 1959 in music) five album set by the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, focusing on the songs of George and Ira Gershwin. It was recorded with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, marking the first time that Ella and Riddle had worked together. This album is the largest single recording project that Ella worked on, and it is considered by some[who?] to be one of the most ambitious achievements in Western popular music.

The album cover is an original portrait of Ella Fitzgerald by the French artist Bernard Buffet, starting a tradition of using contemporary artists for Ella's albums, the artwork of Henri Matisse gracing the cover of her Harold Arlen Songbook (1961).

Riddle arranged 59 Gershwin compositions for the album, including the two orchestral suites which open the album. Though Fitzgerald was 22 years old at the time George Gershwin died, Ira Gershwin was still alive to see this project completed, and helped contribute lyrics and support to some songs on the album which had never been recorded before. It was of this project that led Ira Gershwin to say that he had "never known how good our songs were until I heard Ella sing them".

Ella Fitzgerald was 41 when she recorded this album, and the peak of her vocal powers, demonstrated in the earlier Duke Ellington Songbook, and her two greatest live albums from this period, Ella in Berlin (1960) and Ella in Rome (1958). Like the other songbooks devoted to the Broadway composers, Ella gets only a single outlet for her notable scat singing, on the epic "I Got Rhythm".

Ella's recording of "But Not for Me" won her the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Female.



Recorded 1959:

  • January


  • March

18th and 26th

  • July


at Capitol Studios, Hollywood:

Combined personnel listing for all tracks.

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