Ella Fitzgerald ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ LP only (MPS) 4/5

By the end of the 1960’s, jazz was struggling to attract the same level of support as at the beginning of the decade with rock music in the ascendancy and jazz-rock in embryonic form was about to emerge. Into this context, jazz singers were expanding their repertoire to keep up with the times. Frank Sinatra hit the big time again with, ‘My way’, but Ella Fitzgerald chose an unexpected route with a cover of the Cream classic, ‘Sunshine of your love’. With a rocking beat courtesy of the great Ed Thigpen on drums that took a healthy leaf out of the James Brown school of percussion, but with her tried and trusted accompanist on piano, Tommy Flanagan, and Frank De La Rosa on bass, this late 1960’s album was a one-off in the Ella pantheon of works, but one that a younger generation has grown to love and be an entrance point to her music. Interestingly, it is also a live date, though you would scarcely know because any audience sound has been edited out. Aside from the uptempo and downright raunchy title track, Ella interprets then contemporary songwriters with a Lennon and McCartney number, ‘Hey Jude’, but it is her versions of Hal David and Burt Bacharach songs that impresses, with a lovely ‘This Girl’s In Love With You’, and the tender ‘A House Is Not A Home’. The latter is quite different from the later Luther Vandross reading. Her old favourites are not forsaken for all that, with Duke Ellington’s ‘Love You Madly’ featured. A swinging ‘Alright, Okay, You Win’ rivals that of Nancy Wilson. A priceless document of Ella Fitzgerald still in fine fettle.

Tim Stenhouse