Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Stompin' at the Savoy


Stompin' at the Savoy


Ella Fitzgerald (vocals) and Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals)


Ella and Louis Again (Verve 1703691)

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Ella Fitzgerald (vocals), Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals), Oscar Peterson (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), Louie Bellson (drums).

Composed by Edgar Sampson, Chick Webb, Andy Razaf & Benny Goodman


Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, July 23, 1957


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Whatever the contractual agreements were that allowed Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to record together for Verve Records over a year's time (1956-57), owner/producer Norman Granz managed to sponsor some truly classic jazz vocalizing in that brief window of opportunity: three fine albums spread over five LPs. It was a bittersweet mix of massively talented yet totally mismatched voices, of course; just the question of what key to choose was a repeated challenge, mostly resolved by careful key changes in the midst of songs. ("And now you has jazz," as Satch would opine elsewhere.)

The magic was certainly working overtime when they met for the Ella and Louis Again sessions, and most specifically tripped the light on a superb "Stompin' at the Savoy." In earlier times, that big band ditty had Lindy Hopped right out the Savoy doors and around the block in high-stepping versions by Ella's old boss Chick Webb, busy hitman Benny Goodman, bandmeister Isham Jones, and umpteen others, but nothing could match the hi-fi swing plus ultra of Satch and Miss E.

Granz favored jam sessions, head arrangements, and one or two takes, all to foster what he insisted was true jazz improvisation. On this track (so say the original liner notes), he happened to be rolling tape during the first rehearsal of "Stompin'." The rhythm section locked into a quiet groove, Ella and the quartet on tiptoes at first, and then the happy feet jumped higher, called out by rowdy drums and scatting and that sudden, romping trumpet. As Ella and Louis both began stomping through their own new lyrics to replace forgotten or unwanted words, the magic of jazz was right there: the contrast of voices smooth and rough, of aural sugar and spice, perfect-on-the-notes Ella and perennial trumpet/vocal phenomenon Satch, each inventing interjections and half-words and new notes on the fly, and the rhythm with them every step of the way.

Cue it up and you'll hear the sound of two masters (six, rather) in the cheery throes of creation, finding the spirit of the Savoy Ballroom alive in a Hollywood studio, having the tap-your-feet time and bouncing fun of their lives … one perfect definition of Swing.

Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher

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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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  • 1 Terry Monaghan // Jan 11, 2009 at 10:14 PM
    It would be interesting to know why Louis scats more detailed mentions of the Savoy Ballroom in this recording. He names the Manager Charles Buchanan, and also "Mama Lou" (a reference to Louise 'Mama Lou' Parks) whose Lindy Hop company kept the dance alive after the Savoy closed, and who Louis worked with.