- I Wants To Stay Here
- My Man's Gone Now
- I Got Plenty O'Nuttin'
- Buzzard Song
- Bess, You Is My Woman Now
- It Ain't Necessarily So
- What You Want Wid Bess?
- A Woman Is A Something Thing
- Oh, Doctor Jesus
- Medley: Here Come De Honey Man / Crab Man / Oh, Dey's So Fresh And Fine (Strawberry Woman)
- There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York
- Bess, Oh Where's My Bess?
- Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way
Producer Norman Granz oversaw two Porgy & Bess projects. The first involved Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, and came together during the autumn of 1957 with brassy big band and lush orchestral arrangements by Russ Garcia. This is the classic Verve Porgy & Bess, and it's been reissued many, many times. The second, recorded during the spring and summer of 1976 and issued by RCA, brought Ray Charles together with versatile British vocalist Cleo Laine, backed by an orchestra under the direction of Frank DeVol. A comparison of these two realizations bears fascinating fruit, particularly when the medleys of street vendors are played back to back. Those peasant songs, used in real life to purvey honey, strawberries, and crabs, were gathered and notated by George Gershwin and novelist Du Bose Heyward in 1934 during a visit to Folly Island, a small barrier island ten miles south of Charleston, SC, known today as Folly Beach. As Charleston Harbor had been one of the major ports during the importation of slaves from Africa, the waterfront was mostly populated by Gullahs, a reconstituted community that retained and preserved its ancestral cultures and languages to unusual degrees. Gershwin, who even learned to chant with the Gullah, absorbed the tonalities of the street cries he heard and wove them -- along with all of the other impressions stored within his sensitive mind -- into the fabric of his opera. What's really great about the Ella and Louis version is Ella, who handles each aria with disarming delicacy, clarion intensity, or usually a blend of both. Her take on "Buzzard Song" (sung 19 years later by Ray Charles) is a thrilling example of this woman's intrinsic theatrical genius. Pops sounds like he really savored each duet, and his trumpet work -- not a whole lot of it, because this is not a trumpeter's opera -- is characteristically good as gold. This marvelous album stands quite well on its own, but will sound best when matched with the Ray Charles/Cleo Laine version, especially the songs of the Crab Man, of Peter the Honey Man, and his wife, Lily the Strawberry Woman.
(by arwulf arwulf from allmusic.com)
In deciding to record Porgy & Bess, I felt that our best approach, since we were not recording the entire opera, but instead only the best known excerpts, was to use only two voices: thus, I decided that Ella Fitzgerald should sing all the female parts and Louis Armstrong all the male; in fact, I extended my license even further by having Miss Fitzgerald sing The Buzzard Song, which in the play was sung by a male.
There isn't much one can add to the biographical material already well known about Ella Fitzgerald, because she is the best singer in the world today of popular music and jazz. I felt that this combination of jazz feeling for the melody and popular feeling for the lyric filled the requirements precisely as the Gershwins might have intended for a folk opera like Porgy & Bess. The inherent feel for jazz that George Gershwin possessed is obviously held by Miss fitzgerald in full measure, and Ira Gershwin's need for understanding of his lyrics is equally fully understood and felt by Miss Fitzgerald, as evidenced by her singing the extremes of "Doctor Jesus" and the spirited "I Got Plenty O'Nuttin'".
Louis Armstrong symbolically is Mr. Jazz for the world and will continue to be so forever. He is the epitome of all that jazz represents and though I constantly seem to be emphasizing the term "jazz", Mr. Armstrong is also a great human being with great feelings, and armed with this he attacks and conquers beautifully the demands that the folk opera placed upon him. Though he may not give it the trained voice that other versions have, he gives it, I think, far more poignancy, tenderness, and feeling - and that, after all, is what a "folk" opera really should have. Needless to say, all of the great trumpet solos in this album are also done by Mr. Armstrong, who has no peer on this instrument for this kind of material.
Russell Garcia orchestrated and conducted the entire project. As a working arranger in Hollywood, he has back-stopped many of the best singers there and also has recorded as a conductor in his own right. Mr. Garcia has had particularly close experience with the works of Gershwin, and one can feel and hear the familiarity and sureness in concept and touch with this material.
(by Norman Granz from the original liner notes)