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Ella 101: Georgia On My Mind (Day 26 of 101)

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

From 1962's Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, the second of two albums Ella Fitzgerald recorded that year with arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle, comes this sizzling rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's 1930 standard "Georgia On My Mind." The song was covered by many musicians through the 1960s after Ray Charles' timeless version went to the top of the charts in 1960, and Ella and Nelson's version may be among the very finest efforts.

The production on this album is stunning, with Riddle's orchestra sounding like 100 musicians playing in glorious unison. He charts a seductive, dynamic arrangement that goes from cinematic big band jazz to swaggering blues, with shouting horns and a perfectly in-the-pocket alto sax solo by Ronny Lang.

Ella searched for a major pop hit record for much of her career, as did her label, and she never really went up the pop charts to the extent she'd hoped, but when you look back over her albums and singles from her peak years, you realize there are a number of things that should have been released as singles, and a number of released singles that shouldn't have been.

Another song from this album was released as a single, a shorter take of the very underrated "Call Me Darling," which failed to chart. I'll never understand why this song wasn't released as a single.

Check it out below, and then keep scrolling for video of a 1963 live performance in Sweden with Tommy Flanagan.


BONUS: Live footage from Sweden, 1963.


Ella 101 is a daily look at 101 essential recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, who was born 101 years ago this month. Tune in to Equinox, Monday nights from 8 - 11 p.m. on WYSO, to hear Ella and more great jazz with host Duante Beddingfield.

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Duante Beddingfield, a Dayton native, formerly served as jazz writer for both the Dayton Daily News and Dayton City Paper, has booked jazz musicians for area venues such as Pacchia, and performs regularly around the region as a jazz vocalist with musical partner Randy Villars.