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HAPPY CENTENNIAL BIRTHDAY, ELLA!
This past Tuesday, April 25, the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth was celebrated. She was born in Newport News, Virginia, and became a legendary singer—known for her improvisatory skills, tone, and sheer joyous musicality, loved by audiences around the world.
A just-released box set, 100 Songs for a centennial (Verve, 4 CDs, $49.98), collects some of her greatest performances.
Ms. Fitzgerald had great influence not just on singers, but on instrumentalists as well. Violinist Regina Carter’s Ella: Accentuate the Positive (Okeh Records, $12.98) includes her takes on some some songs associated with and inspired by Ella: “Ac-cen-tchu-ate the Positive,” “Dedicated to You,” and “I’ll Chase the Blues Away,” accompanied by piano, guitar, bass, and drums.
Jenny Scheinman, Here on Earth (Royal Potato Family, $11.98) – Violinist Jenny Scheinman wrote some wonderful songs and fiddle music to play with a silent documentary called Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait. It is a compilation of archival footage filmed by H. Lee Waters between 1936 and 1942. Waters would tour small towns in the Piedmont, capturing scenes (some haunting, some playful) in the everyday lives of folks living through the Great Depression, and would return and screen the films for the town residents. Ms. Scheinman and her fellow musicians toured with the film, and made a stop at the National Gallery of Art last spring. Here on Earth is the soundtrack, and Jenny’s band includes her frequent collaborator Bill Frisell on electric guitar, Robbie Fulks on guitar and banjo, Danny Barnes on banjo and tuba, and Robbie Gjersoe on dobro. Here is a link to a short film with excerpts of Kannapolis, with Jenny explaining the genesis of the project.
Willie Nelson, God’s Problem Child (Sony Legacy, 12.98) – Willie Nelson keeps writing great songs, and singing them with the greatest sense of “behind-the-beat” swing in the land. Special guests Leon Russell (recently deceased), Jamey Johnson, and Tony Joe White guest on the title track, “God’s Problem Child;” other new songs include “Old Timer,” “Still Not Dead,” and “It Gets Easier.”
Ray Davies, Americana (Sony Legacy, $12.98) – A collection of new songs by the founder of the Kinks, inspired by his American travels.
John Mellencamp and Carlene Carter, Sad Clowns and Hillbillies (Republic Records, $14.98) – A new collaboration
Old Crow Medicine Show, 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde (Sony Nashville, $12.98) – The rollicking old-timey band put their own spin on one of Dylan’s greatest albums, Blonde On Blonde.
Feist, Pleasure (Interscope, $14.98) – After six years, Leslie Feist returns with a spare, “back-to-basics” album.