One Random Single a Day #56: “Lullaby of Birdland” (1955) by Ella Fitzgerald

ella-fitzgerald-lullaby-of-birdland-1954

I’m probably going to cut this review relatively short, because (1) I’m running slightly behind on my single reviews, (2) I think I need to keep a succinct word limit on these reviews in order to keep from burning out, (3) I am so burnt out (not just because of these singles reviews, though), and (4) this artist needs little to no introduction anyway. Yes, it is the almighty Ella Fitzgerald, who turns to gold practically everything she touches and graces with her mere presence. I don’t know a whole lot about vocal jazz, but I know enough to acknowledge that Fitzgerald is one of the greats and I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve heard of hers. The song she is singing this time, “Lullaby of Birdland”, is a well-known jazz song, written in 1952 by George Shearing with lyrics by George David Weiss. Referring specifically to the Birdland jazz club and saxophonist Charlie Parker, after which the club is named, the song has been recorded and performed by countless artists through the years and is widely regarded as a standard in the jazz world.

This particular recording is backed by Sy Olivier and His Orchestra, who provide a pretty cool intro of slightly spooky vocalizations that introduce the singer. These vocalizations – along with some nifty sax inflections – continue to provide some totally cool backup to Fitzgerald throughout the entire recording, giving it a fascinating atmosphere akin to dark, smoky bars and jazz clubs. These neat harmonizations are some of my favorite parts of of jazz music from the 1930s (see also: Cab Calloway), so there’s extra points for that already. It’s a standard kind of romantic love song where the feelings of the speaker towards their beloved is compared to the sighs and nuances of nature’s innocent noises. The lyrics are pleasant enough, though they generally are just an excuse to demonstrate the vocal ability of their corresponding performer. Fitzgerald’s performance of the song itself is, of course, spectacular. I especially love in the final half of the song when she drops in some of her distinctive vocal flairs, sliding up and down the vocal scale with beautiful finesse.

Honestly, if you read this in hopes to find out whether or not I think this is worth listening to, you should just stop reading and go listen to it right now. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be this single – go listen to anything she released throughout her illustrious 50-year career. Even if vocal jazz isn’t exactly your thing, there’s bound to be something to appreciate here at least a little bit. To be fair, this is a bit too basic to be anywhere close to the best that Fitzgerald has released, though that may just be the simplicity of the composition itself that dominates the recording, despite all of the other great things it has going for it. But that’s not to say that this isn’t a pleasant listen, because it totally is! Fitzgerald has pretty much produced nothing but great performances throughout her recording career, and this is just another addition to the sparkling pile of quality class.

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