Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ella Fitzgerald: Do Nothing till You Hear from Me

It used to be that when I thought of Ella Fitzgerald, her light, danceable, airy repertoire usually came to mind. It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got that Swing or When My Sugar Walks Down the Street. That sort of fun, poppy song dressed up with Ella's signature vocal bells and whistles for flair. Kind of like a stick of cotton candy...a treat, absolutely sticky-sweet deeelicious, but not too much substance, mostly air. (Don't hate me, I was just a kid.)

Until I was home one summer from college, volunteering at a local radio station hosting an afternoon jazz show, and I put on Do Nothing till You Hear from Me from the Ellington Song Books sessions. That's when my view of Ella changed.

Do nothing till you hear from me
Pay no attention to what's said
Why one should tear the seam
Of anyone's dream
Is over my head

I've usually heard this song done at a moderate pace, with a big, bombastic arrangement, sung in an almost accusatory or sly manner. Not Ella. This song is luxurious, soulful, soothing. It's like she's holding the person she's singing to, and putting a cool cloth to their forehead. Shhh. There there. I'm not going anywhere.

The song is almost 8 minutes long. Stuff Smith plays a killer solo on violin. It entirely changed my view of Ella and my view of this song. The words are stunning. The melody is now one of my Ellington favorites. All because the musicians in this particular session take the time to get into them. To feel and live exactly what is going on in the music. Don't take my word for it. Put your feet up on the couch, turn the lights down low, and listen to this song.

The Best of the Song Books: The Ballads on
Do Nothing till You Hear from Me on iTunes

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