It’s Ella and Louis time! Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong have collaborated on several albums.
Armstrong recorded three albums with Ella Fitzgerald: Ella and Louis, Ella and Louis Again, and Porgy and Bess for Verve Records, with the sessions featuring the backing musicianship of the Oscar Peterson Trio and drummer Buddy Rich.
Ella and Louis is a 1956 studio album by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, accompanied by the Oscar Peterson Quartet. Having previously collaborated in the late 1940s for the Decca label, this was the first of three albums that Fitzgerald and Armstrong were to record together for Verve Records.
Ella and Louis Again is a 1957 studio album by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. It is the “sequel” to their 1956 album, Ella and Louis, in contrast to their previous collaboration Ella and Louis, this album does not only feature duets.
Porgy and Bess is a 1957 studio album by jazz vocalist and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and singer Ella Fitzgerald collaborating on this recording of selections from George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. In 2001, it was awarded with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special achievement prize established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have “qualitative or historical significance.” The album was originally issued on the Verve label as Verve MGV 4011-2, then reissued on PolyGram on CD in 1990, as Verve-PolyGram 827 475-2.
The album is considered the most musically successful amongst the jazz vocal versions of the opera and was released to coincide with the 1959 movie version.
The arranger on this album, Russell Garcia, had previously arranged the first jazz vocal recording of the album, 1956’s, The Complete Porgy and Bess.
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Armstrong and Race
Armstrong was largely accepted into white society, both on stage and off, a privilege reserved for very few African-American public figures, and usually those of either exceptional talent and fair skin-tone. As his fame grew, so did his access to the finer things in life usually denied to a black man, even a famous one. His renown was such that he dined in the best restaurants and stayed in hotels usually exclusively for whites.
It was a power and privilege that he enjoyed, although he was very careful not to flaunt it with fellow performers of color, and privately, he shared what access that he could with friends and fellow musicians.
That still did not prevent members of the African-American community, particularly in the late 1950s to the early 1970s, from calling him an Uncle Tom, a black-on-black racial epithet for someone who kowtowed to white society at the expense of their own racial identity.
He was criticized for accepting the title of “King of The Zulus” for Mardi Gras in 1949. In the New Orleans African-American community it is an honored role as the head of leading black Carnival Krewe, but bewildering or offensive to outsiders with their traditional costume of grass-skirts and blackface makeup satirizing southern white attitudes.
Some musicians criticized Armstrong for playing in front of segregated audiences, and for not taking a strong enough stand in the civil rights movement.
Billie Holiday countered, however, “Of course Pops toms, but he toms from the heart.”
The few exceptions made it more effective when he did speak out. Armstrong’s criticism of President Eisenhower, calling him “two-faced” and “gutless” because of his inaction during the conflict over school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 made national news.
As a protest, Armstrong canceled a planned tour of the Soviet Union on behalf of the State Department saying “The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell” and that he could not represent his government abroad when it was in conflict with its own people. Six days after Armstrong’s comments, Eisenhower ordered Federal troops to Little Rock to escort students into the school.
The FBI kept a file on Armstrong, for his outspokenness about integration.
Enjoy the sounds of Ella and Louis.
Cheek to Cheek
Dream a Little Dream of Me