Ella Fitzgerald: How Long Has This Been Going On?


How Long Has This Been Going On?


Ella Fitzgerald (vocals)


The Complete Songbooks (Verve)

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Ella Fitzgerald (vocals), Don Fagerquist (trumpet), Bob Cooper (tenor sax), Lou Levy (piano), Alvin Stoller (drums),

and an unidentified orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle


Composed by George and Ira Gershwin


Recorded: Los Angeles, January – March 1959


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

When Ella addressed the monumental Songbook series – part jazz lieder, part cocktail music – not only did she re-validate American popular songs for 1950s and '60s audiences brought up in the Swing Era; but she made her statements stick, enhancing her status as an artist beyond her wildest dreams. And in return, when she sang those songs, they re-validated her and remain her lasting achievement. Many consider the Gershwin collection to be the finest of the Songbook series, praising it for its scale, its ambition, or both. It went immediately onto the Billboard chart as soon as it was released, a major feat for a 5-LP set plus an EP. However, the enduring popularity of this set comes with a caveat, since Ella only had a passing acquaintance with the lesser known Gershwin material (such as “My Cousin in Milwaukee” or “Stiff Upper Lip”) until she walked into the studio. Such circumstances could only increase her emotional distance from the composer’s and lyricist’s intentions. Yet on numbers she did know, such as “How Long Has This Been Going On?” – a minor hit for Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman in the early 1940s – Ella comes close to virtually defining the Gershwin oeuvre.

Reviewer: Stuart Nicholson

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Related Links

The Legacy of Ella Fitzgerald by Ted Gioia
The Dozens: Twelve Essential Ella Fitzgerald Performances by Stuart Nicholson
”Ella Fitzgerald” by Stuart Nicholson (from The Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians)

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