Sunday, April 30, 2017

Happy 100, Ella!


Last Tuesday, April 25th, was the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, one of the most masterful singers of the 20th century. There certainly hasn't been a better jazz singer than her. There have been others just as good, in their own way, but none better. In terms of female jazz singers, Ella was part of a great quartet of consummate vocalists, joined by Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Carmen McRae. These women need a Mt. Rushmore of their own. Might there be an enterprising sculptor out there who could undertake this project? Perhaps it could be carved out of a bluff overlooking the Hudson, since New York City is so central to jazz and to the careers of all four women. Ella's tone is pure, even pretty, and I mean that in the best possible way. And, yes, she could truly swing, as this Billy May arranged version of "Paper Moon" demonstrates. When I listen to her great songbook series, from which this clip is taken, I often think to myself that I don't ever need to hear anyone else sing these songs. But then I listen to Billie or Sarah or Carmen, and I think the same thing. How blessed we are to have their music in the world.

An aside: Ms. Fitzgerald would likely be very surprised to see how many little Ellas are running around out there now. Every elementary classroom must have at least one or two, don't you think?

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