Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's Ella, fella.

As many have noted, and rightly paying homage, this would have been the one-hundredth birthday of Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella appeared at least three times in Vancouver. She was fine on an open-air stage at the PNE, with Joe Pass and Oscar Peterson, but she was uncomfortable in the concert hall atmosphere of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. What she liked best was the small, intimate, noisy Cave Supper Club--her kind of place.

When Ella died, Dean Peter Elliott of Christ Church Cathedral said, "We must have a service." And we did. It was called "A Candle and a Canticle for Ella." Musicians and singers from the Jazzmanian Devils and Soul Crib performed, and several people, not least the Dean, talked about what listening to Ella had meant to them and how it had affected their lives.

Many of the albums she left are classics, among them the series of "Songbooks" (Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hart, et al.--the best may be the Ellington); some with a single musician for accompaniment, Ellis Larkins on piano, Joe Pass on guitar; the three collections of duets with Louis Armstrong (and she could do a perfect imitation of Louis); and, perhaps not as well known, her performance of "Party Blues" with Joe Williams and Count Basie on a Metronome All-Stars date.

There have been, and still are, scores of terrific jazz singers. The three who come immediately to mind--The Three Graces--are Billie Holiday, who could get more out of a song than the composer put in it; Sarah Vaughan, the great operatic diva of jazz; and Ella Fitzgerald, whose warmth and musicianship remain incomparable.

As Stevie Wonder said, we all love Ella.

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