They say that music can be one of the greatest therapies during times of stress and I can think of nothing more therapeutic than the voice of Ella Fitzgerald. Her Great American Songbook CDs have been on our player (yes dear reader we still have a CD changer) often over the years.
I had the good lucky to see the “First Lady of Song” on stage twice in the 1970s. The first time was at the Imperial Room at the Royal York Hotel, I’m guessing around 1972 or 1973. My friend Vicki was – and still is – a devoted Ella fan and she coerced a few of us into pooling our resources and booking a table one evening. It was pretty headed stuff for a gang of kids from the sticks with not a great deal of money. The Imperial Room was the premiere nightclub in Toronto with prices to match. What with the meal (I’m sure we ordered the cheapest things on the menu) and cover charge we had very little left over for a tip. The waiter wasn’t very happy with us and followed us out of the room berating us all the way. We were suitably mortified but we had seen Ella and nothing could spoil our evening.
I’m pretty sure that evening she sang her signature tune and with as much elan as in this 1942 Abbott and Costello film.
On July 14, 1975 my friend André and I, along with at least another 1,498 other people, heard her at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. The Bastille Day concert took place in the Place de Cardeurs, a large square behind the hotel de ville that was normally a parking lot. When I was looking for the date – I’m getting rather vague on that sort of thing these days – I came across a photo take from the makeshift stage that July evening.
I didn’t remember the crowd being that large but I do remember Ella making her exit in a limo surrounded by adoring fans calling her name. I’m not sure if that wasn’t the same year a tenor jumped off the stage and got into a fist fight with a gentleman who had booed him. French fans can be very demonstrative.
If anyone knew their way around a song it was Ella and her Great American Songboooks gave her the best of lyrics and music. And she gave her best to them. Though this version of Rogers and Hart’s Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered has sub-titles with Ella you don’t need them.
She was known for her collaboration with some of the greats of the jazz world: Louis Armstrong, Count Bassie, Dizzy Gillespie, Herb Ellis, Oscar Peterson, Tommy Flannagan, and Duke Ellington. Here she is with Ellington and his orchestra demonstrating her famed ability as a scat singer.
This post is dedicated to my dear Vicki, who I have known most of my life. And who almost 50 years ago talked us into that evening with Ella. As well as so many other great adventures.
The term for April 29th is:
In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. In scat singing, the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium