Unearthing A Lost Ella Fitzgerald Recording, 60 Years Later

Ella Fitzgerald

Photo by Harry Croner/ullstein bild via Getty Images


Unearthing A Lost Ella Fitzgerald Recording, 60 Years Later

Recorded in 1962 at Sportpalast Arena in Berlin, the never-before-heard set features the First Lady of Song in her prime—and now, it will be available for all to hear on Oct. 2 via Verve Records

GRAMMYs/Oct 1, 2020 - 10:05 pm

It was like a scene out of an Indiana Jones film: Ken Druker, the Vice President of Catalogue at Verve Records, and Gregg Field, the veteran drummer and producer, were about to play a dusty recording of the indelible First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, that hadn’t been heard, seen or even opened in almost 60 years. "The information written on it certainly wasn’t complete, so it was kind of a crapshoot of what was on it," says Druker of the tedious process. "But the tape was in very good shape and when we listened to it we recognized immediately it was an incredible performance. It was very exciting."

Exactly what Druker and Field stumbled upon was a complete live set of Fitzgerald in her prime performing in 1962 at Sportpalast Arena in Berlin, Germany with the same band as her GRAMMY-winning classic album Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife, which snagged the prize for Best Female Vocal Performance (Single) and the Best Vocal Performance, Female (Album) at the third-ever GRAMMY Awards in 1961. Explains Druker of the monumental find: "The mono recording sounded good, but when we came across the stereo version of the same show we knew for sure it was something that needed to be released."

The result, out Oct. 2 on Verve Records, is appropriately dubbed The Lost Berlin Tapes and is a rare, never-before-heard release courtesy one of America’s greatest voices traversing through bouncy renditions of both her hallmark tracks ("Mack the Knife" and "Check to Cheek") and otherwise rare covers (including a version of Ray Charles’ hit "Hallelujah I Love Her So," swapping "him" for "her").

"There are those nights when you can count on one hand that everything is working on such a high level and this was one of those nights," explains Field who played drums for Fitzgerald in the mid-'80s and serves as a co-producer of the Lost Berlin Tapes endeavour. "She was coming off this big success and you couldn't pick a better year in terms of her age and developed abilities. Here she is with maximum knowledge and ability to execute what she wanted to do. Not only that, but everyone is in a great mood too. All of those things contributed to a much more interesting, compelling performance than the 1960 record that she won the GRAMMY for, which is iconic in itself."

How exactly this particular concert never saw the light of day until the 21st century is a mystery lost to the ages, but Field has some ideas. Formerly in the collection of Ella’s famed manager Norman Granz who founded Verve with the specific mission to release Fitzgerald, the tapes entered a limbo state when Granz later founded Pablo Records in 1973 and sold Verve to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. "We're guessing that when Verve was sold, he took a lot of these tapes with him. Since Verve could have claimed ownership, it could have contributed to why they never came out."

The tapes then sat quietly in Granz's collection for decades, Fitzgerald died in 1996 and Granz passed in 2001, and they were essentially forgotten. That is until a nudge last year from Richard D. Rosman, a caretaker of the Fitzgerald estate, pointed Druker and Field in the direction of the treasure. "We’ll never know what we don’t find," says Druker of the tricky business of lost recordings, some which have the very real ability of disappearing forever. (See: The 2008 fire at Universal Studios during which countless master recordings went ablaze.) "There are some recordings that we know happened but we never found them, so we’re lucky when we do come across these things. When we dig them up, we’re very fortunate."

The quality of The Lost Berlin Tapes is also bolstered by a state-of-the-art technology created by the software company iZotope called RX 8 Music Rebalance. "This technology did not exist a year ago and they called me by chance (just as I was looking into the tapes)," says Field, who used the technology to separate the original stereo mix into a four-track drum, bass, piano and vocal recording. "On the original tape, Ella’s voice was a little thin in the mid-range and the piano and drums were panned hard left and hard right, which is very old school. I was able to bring her more forward and brought up the bottom so you can even hear fingers on the strings. The result is that Ella's much more in the room with you. When I sent it to Ken, he said, 'This is the best live recording of Ella I've ever heard.'"

For Field, who became so close to Ella that she even serenaded him with "Happy Birthday" when he turned 30, it’s both her talent and humanity that’s on full display on the unearthed recording. "Ella was two people. She was very humble, very shy and generous. But when she walked on stage she was hardcore and didn’t know how to sing unless it was coming from her heart," Field explains. "She had a great sense of her audience and made you feel like you were in on all the fun that we were having. She was able to get rid of the walls between her and the audience. That showed in her music, and this set."

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Sinatra To The Chipmunks: 7 Things To Know About The 1st GRAMMY Awards

Peggy Lee at the 1st GRAMMY Awards

Photo: William Claxton/Courtesy Denmont Photo Management


Sinatra To The Chipmunks: 7 Things To Know About The 1st GRAMMY Awards

Go back to the very beginning and find out what happened at the inaugural GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Dec 15, 2017 - 11:49 pm

Every awards show has to start somewhere and Music's Biggest Night is no different.

More than a decade before the annual GRAMMY Awards telecast debuted on CBS in 1973 for everyone to see, the GRAMMY Awards got off to a swingin' start back in 1959. Though no television cameras were present, there was plenty of awards, black-tie formal wear and star power to go around.

Take a journey back to where it all began and learn about seven things that happened at the 1st GRAMMY Awards.

1. 1st GRAMMYs, Two Locations

The inaugural GRAMMY Awards was a bicoastal affair. On May 4, 1959, a black-tie dinner and awards presentation was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Hosted by comedian Mort Sahl, among the music elite in attendance were Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, singing cowboy Gene Autry, singer Peggy Lee, Tin Pan Alley alum Johnny Mercer, composer Henry Mancini, and pianist/conductor André Previn. At the same time, Recording Academy members convened for a simultaneous function at the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City.

Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. at the 1st GRAMMY Awards in Los Angeles
Photo: William Claxton/Courtesy Denmont Photo Management

2. The Chairman's First GRAMMY Win

Sinatra was at the top of his acting and music game in the late '50s, so it's no surprise he emerged as the top nominee at the 1st GRAMMY Awards. His six nominations included two nods for Album Of The Year for Come Fly With Me and Only The Lonely, Record Of The Year for "Witchcraft," and two nominations for Best Vocal Performance, Male. Though the Chairman of the Board didn't win any of these categories, he did pick up his first win for Best Album Cover for Only The Lonely.

3. Count Basie To Ella Fitzgerald: Double The GRAMMY Pleasure

Who were the big winners at the first show? A total of six artists shared that distinction with two wins each. Mancini, jazz bandleader Count Basie, singer Ella Fitzgerald, conductor Felix Slatkin, Italian singer/songwriter Domenico Modugno, and Alvin And The Chipmunks music group creator Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (aka David Seville) picked up two GRAMMYs.

4. Mancini's Album Of The Year Mark

As the composer of "The Pink Panther Theme," "Days Of Wine And Roses" and "Moon River," Mancini's ability to create memorable film and TV music was unrivaled. When the composer won Album Of The Year for The Music From Peter Gunn, he accomplished something that has yet to be duplicated in GRAMMY history. The Music From Peter Gunn, the music complement for the TV series that aired from 1958–1961, remains the lone television soundtrack to win the prestigious award. Three film soundtracks have been so recognized. Do you know which ones they are? (If you guessed Saturday Night Fever, The Bodyguard and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, you're right on the money.)

5. Winners Recognized In 28 Categories

Speaking of winners, the 1st GRAMMY Awards crowned them in 28 categories. (By comparison, there are now 84 GRAMMY categories.) Six of the categories, representing nearly 25 percent of the entire field, were of the classical variety. In addition to Slatkin, the first GRAMMY classical winners included the Hollywood String Quartet, pianist Van Cliburn, guitarists Laurindo Almeida and Andrés Segovia, choir director Roger Wagner, and soprano Renata Tebaldi.

6. A Children's Song Gets A Record Of The Year Nod

"The Chipmunks Song," the cuddly brainchild of Bagdasarian, was among the nominees for Record Of The Year. Though it ended up not capturing the award, it holds the distinction of being the lone children's recording to be nominated in the category. (As mentioned earlier, the holiday song did net Bagdasarian two awards. It also earned Best Engineered Record — Non-Classical honors.)

7. Modugno's Foreign GRAMMY Record

The Italian singer/songwriter Modugno's "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)" ("In The Blue That Is Painted Blue") was a huge hit worldwide, landing at No. 1 in the United States. The smooth ballad earned both Song and Record Of The Year honors at the inaugural GRAMMYs. To date, it is the only foreign-language recording to win either of those categories. Can "Despacito" match the mark? The Luis Fonsi/Daddy Yankee/Justin Bieber smash is up for both categories for the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

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Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

Joan as Police Woman


Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2020 - 07:21 pm

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, singer/songwriter Joan Wasser of Joan as Police Woman, whose forthcoming covers album, COVER TWO, includes tracks by The Strokes, Prince, Talk Talk, and more, shares her Quarantine Diary.

Thursday, April 2

[10 a.m.-12 p.m.] Went to bed at 4 a.m. last night after getting drawn into working on a song. Put on the kettle to make hot coffee while enjoying an iced coffee I made the day before. Double coffee is my jam. Read the news, which does not do much for my mood. Catch up with a few friends, which does a lot of good for my mood. Glad it goes in this order.

[12 p.m.-2 p.m.] Make steel cut oats with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cardamom, and of course, coconut butter to melt on top. If you’re not into coconut butter (sometimes marketed as coconut "manna"), I’d suggest just going for it and getting it (or ordering it) and putting it on your sweet potatoes, your oats, anywhere you’d put butter. I’m not vegan but I do enjoy hearing the tiny scream uttered by a strawberry as I cut into it. 

Contemplate some yoga. Contamplate meditating. Do neither. Resume work on the song I want to finish and send today. I have a home studio and I spend a lot of my time working on music here. The song is a collboration sent to me from Rodrigo D’Erasmo in Milano that will benefit the folks who work behind the scenes in the music touring system in Italy. 

[2 p.m.-4 p.m.] I traded in a guitar for a baritone guitar right before all this craziness hit but hadn’t had the time to get it out until now. I put on some D’Angelo, plugged into my amp and played along as if I were in his band. Micahel Archer, If you’re reading this, I hope you are safe and sound and thank you immensely for all the music you've given us always. 

[4 p.m.-6 p.m.] Bike repair shops have been deemed "necessary," thank goodness, because biking is the primary way I get around and I need a small repair. I hit up my neighborhood shop and they get my bike in and out in 10 minutes, enough time to feel the sun for a moment. 

I ride fast and hard down to the water's edge and take in a view of the East River from Brooklyn. There are a few people out getting their de-stress walks but it is mostly deserted on the usually packed streets.

[6 p.m.-8 p.m.] Practice Bach piano invention no. 4 in Dm very, very, very slowly. I never studied piano but I’m trying to hone some skills. Realize I’m ravenous. Eat chicken stew with wild mushrooms I made in the slow cooker yesterday. It’s always better the second day.

[8 p.m.-10 p.m.] Get on a zoom chat with a bunch of women friends on both coasts. We basically shoot the sh*t and make each other laugh. 

Afterwards I still feel like I ate a school bus so I give into yoga. I feel great afterwards. This photo proves I have a foot. 

[10 p.m.-12 a.m.] Record a podcast for Stereo Embers in anticipation of my new release on May 1, a second record of covers, inventively named COVER TWO. Continue to work on music (it’s a theme).

[12 a.m.-2 p.m.] Tell myself I should think about bed. Ignore myself and confinue to work on music. 

[2 a.m.-4 a.m.] Force myself into bed where I have many books to choose from. This is what I’m reading presently, depending on my mood. Finally I listen to Nick Hakim’s new song, "Qadir," and am taken by its beauty and grace. Good night. 

If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website

Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage


Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

How sound planning for a creative future in our urban areas makes all the difference for artists and musicians

GRAMMYs/Oct 24, 2019 - 01:27 am

The future, as they say, is now. And for music makers around the world, building a future for themselves often starts at home, in their local creative community and in the city where they live. While technology has expanded communication and made the world smaller, cities continue to grow, making planning for the future a critical cultural mission of the present.

To that end, a new report by global organization Sound Diplomacy titled "This Must Be The Place" examines, "The role of music and cultural infrastructure in creating better future cities for all of us." The 37-page deep dive into community planning and development highlights the importance of creative culture in what it calls "Future Cities."

"The government defines ‘Future Cities’ as 'a term used to imagine what cities themselves will be like," the report states, "how they will operate, what systems will orchestrate them and how they will relate to their stakeholders (citizens, governments, businesses, investors, and others),'"

According to the report, only three global cities or states currently have cultural infrastructure plans: London, Amsterdam and New South Wales. This fact may be surprising considering how city planning and sustainability have become part of the discussion on development of urban areas, where the UN estimates 68 percent of people will live by 2050.

"Our future places must look at music and culture ecologically. Much like the way a building is an ecosystem, so is a community of creators, makers, consumers and disseminators," the report says. "The manner in which we understand how to maintain a building is not translated to protecting, preserving and promoting music and culture in communities."

The comparison and interaction between the intangibility of culture and the presence of physical space is an ongoing theme throughout the report. For instance, one section of the report outlines how buildings can and should be designed to fit the cultural needs of the neighborhoods they populate, as too often, use of a commercial space is considered during the leasing process, not the construction process, leading to costly renovations.

"All future cities are creative cities. All future cities are music cities."

On the residential side, as cities grow denser, the need increases for thoughtful acoustic design and sufficient sound isolation. Future cities can and should be places where people congregate

"If we don’t design and build our future cities to facilitate and welcome music and experience, we lose what makes them worth living in."

For musicians and artists of all mediums, the answer to making—and keeping—their cities worth living in boils down to considering their needs, impact and value more carefully and sooner in the planning process.

"The report argues that property is no longer an asset business, but one built on facilitating platforms for congregation, community and cohesion," it says. "By using music and culture at the beginning of the development process and incorporating it across the value chain from bid to design, meanwhile to construction, activation to commercialisation, this thinking and practice will result in better places."

The report offers examples of how planners and leaders are handling this from around the world. For instance, the Mayor Of London Night Czar, who helps ensure safety and nighttime infrastructure for venues toward the Mayor's Vision for London as a 24-hour city. Stateside, Pittsburgh, Penn., also has a Night Mayor in place to support and inform the growth of its creative class.

Diversity, inclusion, health and well-being also factor into the reports comprehensive look at how music and culture are every bit as important as conventional business, ergonomic and environmental considerations in Future Cites. Using the Queensland Chamber of Arts and Culture as a reference, it declared, "A Chamber of Culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce."

In the end, the report serves as a beacon of light for governments, organizations, businesses and individuals involved in planning and developing future cities. Its core principals lay out guideposts for building friendly places to music and culture and are backed with case studies and recommendations. But perhaps the key to this progress is in changing how we approach the use of space itself, as the answer to supporting music may be found in how we look at the spaces we inhabit.

"To develop better cities, towns and places, we must alter the way we think about development, and place music and culture alongside design, viability, construction and customer experience," it says. "Buildings must be treated as platforms, not assets. We must explore mixed‑use within mixed‑use, so a floor of a building, or a lesser‑value ground floor unit can have multiple solutions for multiple communities."

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