Music can be a form of perfection - with nothing added or subtracted, flawless just the way it is.

The First Lady Of Song

17. January 2013 Ella, Fitzgerald, Jazz, Louis, Armstrong, Women

The First Lady Of Song

Next up in this women in jazz series is the magnificent Ella Fitzgerald. I feel a bit intimidated writing about her - she was just that good! Her voice is probably as pure as it gets. It’s bright, perfectly clear and it’s very comforting. Her singing is so effortless that she makes it seem like it’s easy to sing like that. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to have Ella for a grandma. Whenever someone felt blue, she would just sing their troubles away. While I love Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, they never make me feel as good as Ella always does. It’s easy to get caught up in her music and forget about your worries.

I got to know Ella through my love of Louis Armstrong. As you may know, Lady Ella and Satchmo recorded 3 albums together, all of which are simply golden. Some people refer to ‘Porgy and Bess’ album as “Sandpaper and whipped cream”. I personally prefer the first two albums - ‘Ella & Louis’ and ‘Ella andLouis Again’ . A combination of her singing and her exquisite voice, his amazing trumpet playing and his raspy voice is entrancing. Listen to ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ or ‘Learning The Blues’ to get a feeling of what I’m talking about. And even if you’re not interested in what I’m talking about, just listen to the songs because it’s wonderful music and also because these albums are probably an example of one of the best collaborations ever.
For some other Ella Fitzgerald’s albums, I would recommend ‘Intimate Ella’ or some of her songbooks: Cole Porter’s, Gershwin’s or Duke Ellington’s. The first two are actually not even that jazzy, so they might be especially appropriate for someone who’s not that into jazz, but because of Ella’s amazing vocals they will also be liked by jazz fans. ‘Intimate Ella’ is a good one to get the most out of her voice, since she’s accompanied only by a piano on this one. Here’s an example.

I read about her life the other day and I was quite surprised. Ella was born and brought up in poverty and she was actually homeless for a year before starting her career. She hit her big break at a talent show in Harlem. She was supposed to dance, but after seeing an amazing dance act go on before her, she got scared and at the last second decided to sing instead. Best last second decision ever!
Behind the stage, she was actually shy and reserved, which I think no one would guess because she looked so confident and, in her own words, felt at home on the stage. Singing is what she lived for. She often felt self- conscious about her looks and at times even doubted her abilities. How can someone so talented doubt themselves?! I guess she was still only a human, like the rest of us, even though she sounded otherworldly.

What is your favourite Ella Fitzgerald album or song? Your thoughts are appreciated.

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