Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald (vocals); Lou Levy (piano); Gus Johnson (drums).
Photographer: Yale Joel.
Ella Fitzgerald didn't lack for live recording opportunities in the late '50s, which on the surface, would make this first issue of a 1958 Chicago live club date an easy one to pass on. Verve label head Norman Granz recorded her often in the '50s with an eye to releasing live albums, which he did with her shows at Newport in 1957 and Los Angeles' Opera House in 1958 (not to mention another 1958 concert in Rome that was released 30 years later to wide acclaim). Those shows, however, differed widely from this one, which found her in front of a very small audience at Chicago's jazz Mecca Mister Kelly's (Sarah Vaughan's landmark At Mister Kelly's was recorded there four months earlier). Fitzgerald's artistry is basically a given in this situation, but much of the material recorded here was rare and obscure; "Your Red Wagon" had only been released as a single, her delightfully melodic "Across the Alley from the Alamo" never appeared elsewhere, and for a pair of Sinatra evergreens -- "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and "Witchcraft" -- the former had never appeared, and the latter only appeared later, on a 1961 return to the site of her Berlin live landmark. ~ John Bush