Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ella Sings The Blues

Ella Fitzgerald

The thought occurred to me that while I have been dedicating my Saturday nights to Jazz, I have included the brilliant Ella Fitzgerald in a couple of posts, but not dedicated an entire evening to her. Well, it is about time I remedied that. Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917. As she grew up in Yonkers, New York, she loved listening to Jazz music. But she wasn't planning on becoming a singer, instead, she wanted to be a dancer. At age 17, Ella made her debut at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Lore has it she was planning a dance, but didn't want to compete with Edwards Sisters, a dance group she loved to watch. So she sang. Soon she was a regular at the club, making fans of her glorious voice. She would soon be known as "the First Lady of Song" as well as "the Queen of Jazz". She had such a beautiful tone, amazing phrasing, and great musicality. You can see all this in this performance of "Body And Soul", the great song with lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton, and music by Johnny Green.

And while the most known version of the next song belongs to Billie Holiday, Ella sure put her stamp on it as well. The gorgeous and moody "Summertime" was written by George and Ira Gershwin, based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward. Her version is defined by the lethargy brought on by the heat, but in no way is is slow or lazy. I love it.

During the 1950s, it seemed like everyone would sing the great torch song written by Arthur Hamilton, "Cry Me A River". I love this version of the song, as Ella performs the song with great Jazz guitarist Joe Pass.

In 1944, pianist Thelonious Monk composed the music for "'Round Midnight", a stunning and moody piece of music that quickly became a Jazz standard. Later, songwriter Bernie Hanighen added lyrics, and it was no longer a song just for musicians. Listen as Ella puts her stamp all over the song.

On June 15, 1996, the world lost Ella Fitzgerald, but thankfully, there are countless recordings of her still available. There are tons of albums, and many collections of her greatest work as well. You really cannot go wrong with Ella. You can purchase her album Jazz 'Round Midnight, a collection of some great standards sung by the mistress of Jazz, on iTunes and Amazon.

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