WHEN SWING WAS KING…Ella Fitzgerald: Live at Chatuauqua Volume 2, Joe Bushkin Quartet: Live at the Embers 1952

Almost every old time jazz artist states that the main missing ingredient in today’s jazz is that simple thing called swing. Replaced by rock, rap, hip hop or whatever, the simple swing pulse is found as often as shrimp cocktails at a bar mitzvah. Here are a couple albums from an earlier generation that show what music is supposed to feel like.

Ella Fitzgerald is captured in a buoyant mood at a 1968 concert at the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater in New York. At this point in her career, she is 4 years removed from her most recent Songbook album, delivering a retrospective of her entire career here with the pulsating team of Tee Carson/p, Keter Betts/b and Joe Harris/dr. Ella’s in enthusiastic form, gliding nicely on “Day In Day Out” and delivering rich aria intros to “Mr. Paganini,” and “Let’s Fall in Love” and going against the grain with a richly slowed down and emotional “Lady Be Good.” Most interesting is Ms. Fitzgerald singing a composition of her own, the poignant “He Had  A Dream,” dedicated to Martin Luther King. That alone makes this an important outing.

Joe Bushkin is largely forgotten today, but at one time he was a major player, being the pianist for Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong, while composing the hit song “ Oh! Look at Me Now.” Here, he’s found at the Embers jazz club in 1952 NYC, teamed with a bunch of Basie alumni, Buck Clayton/tp, Milt Hinton/b and Joe Jones. The result is a richly casual collection of suave swing that shows off the skills of each artist. Bushkin’s soft and timely touch introduces most of the pieces such as “ But Not For Me” and “You’re Just In Love” before Clayton saunters in with his Armstrong-styled horn. Hinton gets a chance at the spotlight during a couple ballads and Jones’s wispy touch is like a breeze blowing through the pines, while his own solo spot during on Honeysuckle Rose, has him sashaying like Astaire, and is a perfect workshop  in style and taste. Bottle this one up and take it once a day between meals!


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