[JPL] Ella Fitzgerald

RGill7344 at aol.com RGill7344 at aol.com
Mon Apr 25 08:14:45 EDT 2005


Ella Fitzgerald
By Ron Gill

I was six years old when Ella Fitzgerald was already
an established female vocalist in the minds of the
listening public. At that age, I had already
established my love for the art of song, be it jazz,
popular , theatre  or 
what I was hearing in the movies that I attended with
my wonderful aunt who introduced me to this music by
listening to recordings or taking me to hear these
people in person at the Apollo, Paramount Theatres and
the like. What an experience.
So I watched Ella grow as an artist. From her Decca
recordings to the 1950’s songbook phase that
established her more deeply in the minds of her
listeners. What a joy.
Her recordings with the Ink Spots who were very
popular then as  well, Louis Jordan, Mills Brothers
and Louis Armstrong. Ella had it all. She had a
wonderfully clear voice, great intonation, and the
ability to make you feel comfortable listening to her.
Her sweetness came  through as well, as we have
learned through biographies of the kind of person she
was. Her
sensitivity  showed in her work as well, and it’s no
doubt by the way she 
sang her songs she found comfort in the  words she 
sang.
Listening to her work on Decca Records which was an
established recording company with a large roster of
great stars, Ella stood tall. Singers who wanted to
challenge her status were unable to keep up. Her
talent was so immense. With Ella you could go just
about anywhere on the popular and jazz spectrum. She
already had established herself when it came to the
art of the popular song. I venture to say that Ella
was  almost singlehandedly responsible for giving the
American public an opportunity to learn and appreciate
popular songs. Look at the list of songs  she recorded
and made classics when recording for Decca in the
forties; Flying Home,  That old Black Magic, Stairway
To The Stars, Goody, Goody, Lullaby Of Birdland, just
to name a very few. I also believe she helped the
boppers, Dizzy and Parker, in their quest to become 
established.  What more would you need than to have
Ella on jazz concerts trading fours with the likes of
Diz and the rest on things like Flying Home, or How
High The Moon? Talk about classic. Talk about the
ability to swing. Ella did that, and the audiences
loved it.  While those recordings were popular, you
had to visit Ella in person when she did it.
I remember a concert in the fifties at Symphony Hall,
with the Oscar Peterson Trio, produced  by Norman
Granz. Ella strolled on stage, lights dimmed, the
musician’s music stands lit with only small pin lights
over the music, and she opened with a warm and
delightful version of ‘You Belong To Me’, and
everybody’s version of that song was diminished in
your mind as she wrapped her tonsils around that song.
Talk about feeling you were in your living room. Ella
could do that.
When she became ensconced with Norman Granz and Verve,
his development of Ella and what followed had to be a
singer’s dream. But, who else could do what Ella did?
No matter who we think of today who tried it were
unable to capture what she did. Her songbooks were
unmatchable. Depending on the composer, Ella captured
every nuance of their music and with respect. Not only
the finest composers, but the best 
arrangers. How lucky for us , because without those 
songs, those composers, and Ella, we  would have
missed the greatest of joys in music and the Great
America Songbook.
The greatest joy for me is having the opportunity to
share this music on recordings available to me. Each
year, in celebration of their birthdays, I revisit
Ella, along with the greatest composer of the last
Century, Duke Ellington, on my Jazz Gallery Program on
WGBH, 89.7, in Boston, http://www.wgbh.org. 
The playlist for this prgram can be found here.@
www.wgbh.org.





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