Ella & Louis Again, Quality Records Pressing, 45rpm
Last December, I posted a swooning review of Acoustic Sounds' two-disc, 45rpm, 200-gram Quality Records Pressings of Ella & Louis, the 1956 Verve album of duets with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (backed by Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, and Buddy Rich), which may be the most delightful vocal album everand, in this pressing, perhaps the most amazing-sounding.
Now Chad Kassem, the reissue house's proprietor, has come out with the 1957 sequel, Ella & Louis Again (same cast, but with Louis Bellson replacing Rich on drums, for the better). It's swoon time all over. (For more on QRP, click here.)
Once again (so to speak), Pops and the First Lady of Song seem to be singing in the room, right before your eyes. (When I recently played Ella & Louis for a friend who's a prominent jazz critic, he literally gasped and afterward likened the experience to "an acid trip.")
On Ella & Louis Again, as with the original, we hear Ella's perfect voice and the puff of air it rides into the room on; we hear Satch's gruff growls, his tender moans. Their voices are recorded hotonce in a while (a couple of Armstrong's growls), on the edge of too hotand the rhythm section is a bit recessed, but these are quibbles. In my review of the first album, I also noted that Armstrong's trumpet sometimes sounded a bit harsh, due perhaps to the miking. On the second album, he doesn't blow his horn as much: on one song ("Autumn in New York"), it's a bit kazoo-ish; on "Stompin' at the Savoy," it blasts and blares just fine.
(PS: This is a mono recording; I listened with a stereo cartridge, specifically the Lyra Delos, mounted on the VPI Classic turntable.)
If you buy just one of these albums, go for Ella & Louis: the song selection is betterthough their shivering cruise through "Autumn in New York," on Ella & Louis Again, is one of those essential artifacts of American civilization.
I have just two complaints about this new reissue, and they're the same that I had about the earlier one. First, given the $50 pricetag, I think the two vinyl slabs could have been packaged in a gatefold cover (as Music Matters Jazz does with its 45rpm Blue Note reissues and as Acoustic Sounds has done with its new, excellent-sounding 45 of Brubeck's Time Out) instead of getting crammed into one slot. Second, I think Acoustic could also have supplied the technical credits. (FYI: Val Valentin was the recording engineer on both sessions.)
But again, this is small stuff. All in all, this is a wonderful release.