Ella Fitzgerald, The Intimate Ella
Bittersweet love songs — melancholy but never morose
In 1960, Fitzgerald made what might be her only acting role in a major motion picture, a seamy melodrama titled Let No Man Write My Epitaph. She played, of all things, a drug-addicted pianist (in reality, of course, she was neither), but in the course of production, she wound up recording 13 songs accompanied only by pianist Paul Smith. The tracks were eventually reissued on CD under the appropriate title The Intimate Ella, and, indeed, they feature some of her most personal singing — and show that she took a backseat to no one in terms of her ability to communicate warmth, emotion, and to completely put her heart into a song. In this setting, the emphasis is on bittersweet love songs — melancholy but never morose — like "Angel Eyes" and "Misty." One of the standout songs here is titled "Then You've Never Been Blue," and Fitzgerald shows that she certainly has.