Spotlight on ……

Ella Fitzgerald



Both fans and fellow performers know Ella Fitzgerald as “The First Lady Of Song”. The title is well deserved as she is, arguably, the most outstanding female song stylist of all time. In her sixty-year career Ella released around 200 albums, and this collection contains the cream of recordings made for the legendary Capitol label.


Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25th, 1917. Her parents split up soon afterwards, and her mother took her to live in Yonkers, New York. Ella loved singing from childhood and admitted: “I tried so hard to sound like my first idol, Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters”. After her mother died in a car accident, Ella temporarily slipped into bad ways and even spent time in reform school.


She made her singing debut at New York’s famed Apollo Theatre in 1934, winning first prize in their amateur talent show. "Once I felt the acceptance and love from the audience, I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life" she said. Her win led to Ella appearing with the Tiny Bradshaw Band and then with drummer Chick Webb’s Orchestra. It was while with Webb that she made her first recording “Love And Kisses’ in 1935, and three years later had her first million seller with her playful adaptation of the nursery rhyme ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket’.


When Webb died in 1939, Ella fronted his band until she decided to go it alone in 1942. During that decade she had a string of hits both as a solo singer and with artists like Louis Jordan, The Ink Spots, The Song Spinners, the Delta Rhythm Boys and fellow scat vocalist Louis Armstrong (with whom she later recorded several successful albums). Singing harmonic variations of the melody in nonsense syllables, otherwise known as Scat singing, was a speciality of Ella’s. As the New York Times commented “Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, have tried similar improvisation, no one before has employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness”.


During the late 1940s, Ella first toured the globe as part of her future manager Norman Granz’s acclaimed Jazz at The Philharmonic (JATP) concerts, and these helped to turn her into an international star. In 1950, she released the first of her songbook albums, Ella Sings Gershwin, of which Ira Gershwin commented, "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella sing them". She was still singing with the JATP in 1955 when Granz formed Verve Records and convinced Ella to end her 20-year association with Decca and join his label.


Verve was launched with Ella’s 1956 album ‘The Cole Porter Songbook’. The recording, which she called ”A turning point in my life”, introduced her to a much broader worldwide audience, and it was one of the first albums whose sales rivalled those of hit singles. No female performer has more albums in the prestigious Grammy Hall of Fame than Ella, where the aforementioned album sits alongside her later Verve releases: ‘The Rodgers & Hart Songbook’, ‘Porgy And Bess’ and ‘Mack The Knife’. The 1950s also found Fitzgerald appearing on all the major US TV shows, and in the popular movies ‘Pete Kelly’s Blues’, ‘St. Louis Blues’ and ‘Let No Man Write My Epitaph’.

Although she is best known for her unique interpretations of what we now call “The Great American Songbook”, Ella was also very aware of new trends and was the first “good music” (as pre-rock easy listening artists were called at the time) performer to record a Beatles song; her jazzy take on ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ charting simultaneously with the group’s own version in 1964.


1967 proved to be another landmark year for Ella, as she not only became the first female artist to receive a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Grammy, but also recorded the first of her four excellent Capitol albums from which this CD is sourced.


Our set opens with nine cuts from her country collection ‘Misty Blue’. These include unique interpretations of three Hank Cochran penned mid-1960s country Top 10 hits; ‘The Chokin’ Kind’, ‘Evil On Your Mind’ and the Grammy winning No.1 ‘Don’t Touch Me’. From her all-medley album, ‘30 By Ella’, we showcase a selection of standards and jazz favourites performed as only she can. Numbered among the many highlights are her renditions of the sentimental ‘My Mother’s Eyes’, Duke Ellington’s classic ‘I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)’, ‘I Cried For You’, Doris Day’s ‘If I Give My Heart To You’ and the 1930s best sellers, ‘Once In A While’, ‘All I Do Is Dream Of You’ and ‘It Happened In Monterey’. Ella also released an album of Christian Hymns, ‘Brighten The Corner’, from which you can hear the old favourites ‘Abide With Me’ and ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’. Staying with the religious theme, this carefully chosen CD concludes with ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’, which were featured on the album ‘Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas’.

Ella, who was married twice, was dogged by ill-health in her later years. She made her last recording in 1989 and performed for the final time at Carnegie Hall in 1993, even though she was already blind due to diabetes. The World’s most popular and influential female jazz performer for half a century died in 1996 at the age of 79. During her lifetime she had performed or recorded with all the top names in jazz, and played to packed houses at top venues around the globe. Ella’s unmistakable three-octave voice will be remembered for its flexibility, purity of tone, perfect phrasing and intonation, and the fact that she could take almost any style of song and make it her own.


Ella has rightfully received countless awards, citations and honours, including 14 Grammy awards, a statue in Yonkers and special presentations from two US presidents. However, it was the praise of her contemporaries that she most appreciated, so what better way to round off this brief resumé of Ella’s life and career than with some praise from her peers. Bing Crosby called her “The greatest of them all”. Duke Ellington added, “In terms of musicianship, Ella was beyond category”. Tony Bennett prophesised that “Her recordings will live forever - she’ll sound just as modern 200 years from now”, and Frank Sinatra summed her up by simply saying, “It don’t get no better than Ella’.


Dave McAleer (Guinness Book of Hit Singles & Albums)


 



ELLA FITZGERALD

The Collection (The Capitol Recordings)


396 2792

0946 3 96279 2 9


  1. Misty Blue

  2. Walkin' In The Sunshine

  3. It's Only Love

  4. Evil On Your Mind

  5. I Taught Him Everything He Knows

  6. Turn The World Around

  7. The Chokin' Kind

  8. This Gun Don't Care

  9. Don't Touch Me

  10. Medley: My Mother's Eyes / Try A Little Tenderness / I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) / Everything I Have Is Yours / I Never Knew (I Could Love Anybody Like I’m Loving You / Goodnight, My Love

  11. Medley: On Green Dolphin Street / How Am I To Know / Just Friends / I Cried For You / Seems Like Old Times / You Stepped Out Of A Dream

  12. Medley: If I Give My Heart To You / Once In A While / Ebb Tide /The Lamp Is Low / Where Are You / Thinking Of You

  13. Medley: Candy / All I Do Is Dream Of You / Spring Is Here / 720 In The Books / It Happened In Monterey / What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry

  14. Abide With Me

  15. Brighten The Corner Where You Are

  16. God Be With You Till We Meet Again

  17. I Shall Not Be Moved

  18. Let The Lower Lights Be Burning

  19. Rock Of Ages Cleft For Me

  20. O Holy Night

  21. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear






 

 

 

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