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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Porgy And Bess - The Jazz Version

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This installment of Once Upon the Internet looks at a 1950's studio version of Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess, featuring singers Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, which I uploaded years ago from (as I re all) a Russian site.

The Porgy discography is vast - from the 1940's "original cast" recording, the soundtrack to the Otto Preminger feature film, to large opera productions by established opera companies, with "concept albums" inspired from the Gershwin work, and of course a litany of singers that have recorded stand-alone numbers (like Janis Joplin singing Summertime, for example).

Chief among the "concept" ventures is the Miles Davis 1958 record, which features arrangements by Davis and collaborator Gil Evans. As one of Davis' best-selling albums, Porgy and Bess has earned recognition as a landmark album in orchestral jazz.

Just as remarkable as this instrumental effort, the 1959 studio album by jazz vocalist and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and singer Ella Fitzgerald. 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 arranger on this album, Russell Garcia, had previously arranged the first jazz vocal recording of the opera, 1956's, The Complete Porgy and Bess.

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.

Happy Listening!

George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Porgy and Bess (1935)
(Selected numbers - see track listing below)
Louis Armstrong - vocals, trumpet
Ella Fitzgerald - vocals
Paul Smith - piano
Alvin Stoller - drums
Studio Orchestra
Russell Garcia - Arranger, Conductor
Original LP (Verve MGV 4011-2)

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To read and listen to my musical selections this month, please visit my programming pages on both my English and French Blogs. Past music montages can also be heard on our Pod-O-Matic podcast channel.