Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis (1956)
It’s simple enough to take two legends, record a handful of duets, stamp their names on an album cover, and let the units shift themselves. Lord knows the music industry has made that easy buck thousands of times. But that’s far from the case with Ella and Louis. Years before we saw the jazz legend shattering drinking glasses in Memorex commercials, Ella Fitzgerald found a perfect pairing with famed trumpeter Louis Armstrong on this, the first of three albums together. The two glide through traditional standards, with the famed Oscar Peterson Quartet backing them, and somehow manage to squeeze in not only Fitzgerald’s powerhouse voice and Armstrong’s gravelly warble without ever stumbling over each other but also the latter’s iconic trumpet and Peterson’s distinctive piano.
But that’s not why Ella and Louis remains beloved by the fans of these two seminal artists. They don’t merely sing alongside each other; their voices dance with one another. Though she was nearly 20 years his junior, we believe the duo as they inhabit the protagonists of standards like “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “Cheek to Cheek”. We believe the memories, the humor, the shared joys and struggles, and we can’t help but wish the same “heaven” for ourselves one day that two old souls share when they assures us, “Heaven, I’m in heaven/ And my heart beats so I can hardly speak/ And I seem to find the happiness I seek/ When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.” Sounds like heaven to me. –Matt Melis