Over 58 years ago, Ella Fitzgerald took the stage at Berlin’s Sportpalast for a swinging set. The March 25, 1962 date, part of an extensive European tour, found her supported by the trio of pianist Paul Smith, bassist Wilfred Middlebrooks, and drummer Stan Levey. She was no stranger to Berlin; her February 1960 concert at the city’s Deutschlandhalle was released as Mack the Knife: Ella in Berlin and won two Grammy Awards. There had been no audio document of her 1962 show…until now.
On October 2, Verve/UMe will release The Lost Berlin Tapes on both LP and CD. The 17-song concert, recorded one month shy of the artist’s 45th birthday, was recorded in both mono and stereo. The tapes were located in producer-Verve founder Norman Granz’s personal tape archive. It wasn’t uncommon for Granz to record Ella, whom he also managed; he might record a show for reference, future use on radio or records, or for his personal edification.
Onstage at the Sportpalast, Fitzgerald delivered a set filled with jazz and vocal standards from songwriters including the Gershwins, Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and Cole Porter. She revisited Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and Marc Blitzstein’s “Mack the Knife,” getting her lyrics correct (as opposed to the famous 1960 recording where she flubbed them) but professing to forget where she was singing! She showcased her interpretive gifts on such timeless songbook classics as “Angel Eyes,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Summertime,” “C’est Magnifique,” and “Cheek to Cheek,” and flexed her improvisational and scat muscles on “Jersey Bounce” and Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah, I Love Him So.”
The Lost Berlin Tapes is due from Verve/UMe on October 2 on CD, vinyl, and digital platforms. You can find pre-order links and peruse the track listing below.
Ella Fitzgerald, The Lost Berlin Tapes (Verve, 2020)
- Cheek to Cheek
- He’s My Kind of Boy
- Cry Me a River
- I Won’t Dance
- Someone to Watch Over Me
- Jersey Bounce
- Angel Eyes
- Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie
- Taking a Chance on Love
- C’est Magnifique
- Good Morning Heartache
- Hallelujah, I Love Him So
- Hallelujah, I Love Him So (Reprise)
- Mack the Knife
- Wee Baby Blues