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Ella Fitzgerald

"The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was arguably the finest female jazz singer of all time (although some may vote for Sarah Vaughan or Billie Holiday). Blessed with a beautiful voice and a wide range, Fitzgerald could outswing anyone, was a brilliant scat singer, and had near-perfect elocution; one could always understand the words she sang. The one fault was that, since she always sounded so happy to be singing, Fitzgerald did not always dig below the surface of the lyrics she interpreted and she even made a downbeat song such as "Love for Sale" sound joyous. However, when one evaluates her career on a whole, there is simply no one else in her class.

One could never guess from her singing that Ella Fitzgerald's early days were as grim as Billie Holiday's. Growing up in poverty, Fitzgerald was literally homeless for the year before she got her big break. In 1934, she appeared at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, winning an amateur contest by singing "Judy" in the style of her idol, Connee Boswell. After a short stint with Tiny Bradshaw, Fitzgerald was brought to the attention of Chick Webb by Benny Carter (who was in the audience at the Apollo). Webb, who was not impressed by the 17-year-old's appearance, was reluctantly persuaded to let her sing with his orchestra on a one-nighter. She went over well and soon the drummer recognized her commercial potential. Starting in 1935, Fitzgerald began recording with Webb's Orchestra, and by 1937 over half of the band's selections featured her voice. "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" became a huge hit in 1938 and "Undecided" soon followed. During this era, Fitzgerald was essentially a pop/swing singer who was best on ballads while her medium-tempo performances were generally juvenile novelties. She already had a beautiful voice but did not improvise or scat much; that would develop later.

On June 16, 1939, Chick Webb died. It was decided that Fitzgerald would front the orchestra even though she had little to do with the repertoire or hiring or firing the musicians. She retained her popularity and when she broke up the band in 1941 and went solo; it was not long before her Decca recordings contained more than their share of hits. She was teamed with the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Delta Rhythm Boys for some best-sellers, and in 1946 began working regularly for Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic. Granz became her manager although it would be nearly a decade before he could get her on his label. A major change occurred in Fitzgerald's singing around this period. She toured with Dizzy Gillespie's big band, adopted bop as part of her style, and started including exciting scat-filled romps in her set. Her recordings of "Lady Be Good," "How High the Moon," and "Flying Home" during 1945-1947 became popular and her stature as a major jazz singer rose as a result. For a time (December 10, 1947-August 28, 1953) she was married to bassist Ray Brown and used his trio as a backup group. Fitzgerald's series of duets with pianist Ellis Larkins in 1950 (a 1954 encore with Larkins was a successful follow-up) found her interpreting George Gershwin songs, predating her upcoming Songbooks series.

After appearing in the film Pete Kelly's Blues in 1955, Fitzgerald signed with Norman Granz's Verve label and over the next few years she would record extensive Songbooks of the music of Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hart, Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and Johnny Mercer. Although (with the exception of the Ellington sets) those were not her most jazz-oriented projects (Fitzgerald stuck mostly to the melody and was generally accompanied by string orchestras), the prestigious projects did a great deal to uplift her stature. At the peak of her powers around 1960, Fitzgerald's hilarious live version of "Mack the Knife" (in which she forgot the words and made up her own) from Ella in Berlin is a classic and virtually all of her Verve recordings are worth getting.

Fitzgerald's Capitol and Reprise recordings of 1967-1970 are not on the same level as she attempted to "update" her singing by including pop songs such as "Sunny" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," sounding quite silly in the process. But Fitzgerald's later years were saved by Norman Granz's decision to form a new label, Pablo. Starting with a Santa Monica Civic concert in 1972 that is climaxed by Fitzgerald's incredible version of "C Jam Blues" (in which she trades off with and "battles" five classic jazzmen), Fitzgerald was showcased in jazz settings throughout the 1970s with the likes of Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, and Joe Pass, among others. Her voice began to fade during this era and by the 1980s her decline due to age was quite noticeable. Troubles with her eyes and heart knocked her out of action for periods of time, although her increasingly rare appearances found Fitzgerald still retaining her sense of swing and joyful style. By 1994, Ella Fitzgerald was in retirement and she passed away two years later, but she remains a household name and scores of her recordings are easily available on CD. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Sings The George And Ira Gershwin Song Book

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Track List: The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books

Disc 1
Disc 2
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Disc 16

Comments

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Simply stunning, a voice of a generation that will never be forgotten. Her music is simply magnificent. Beyonce' take notes
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Mkil
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art.mcintosh
I love her voice.
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Ella is the best.When I hear her kind of singer it one of the things that makes living today.I feel so sorry for most young people today.They really think they have a handle on things,they don't.
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Best female singer of all times.
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There'll never be another like Ella. I wish I'd been able to see her perform back in the day. What a fantastic singer she was!
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dragonlady60 8 8
Ella ...what a beautiful voice
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jake47302
Saw her at Ravinia in 65 w tommy flanagan trio. I agree, a gift from God.
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No comparison No where No one
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sofieandlily
I saw a documentary once where early bands did not want Ella as their lead singer because she was ugly. Ella was not ugly at all. She had the prettiest face, and a very sweet face.
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hairyoutwo
love-him.
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Ella is the queen of all vocalists. I love classical and all the queens of opera however Ella (not a classical singer) blows all genres to smithereens because her buttery voice and her scat and imitation of instruments are priceless jewles no one can imitate! VIVA ELLA...she didn't need a huge set or any flamboyant costumes (like divas today) all she needed was her beautiful voice.
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I've been a fan for so long. I regret never seeing her perform live. In my opinion she was the greatest female vocalist of all time. Sinatra shared the same opinion.
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Um-brella - ella-ella-el l a
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maddoxfactor
Amazing woman!!!! Love her music so much!!
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Perfect Mix !
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sorry, i can think of so many jazz singers i like better. about 8 or so.
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This is perfection.T h i s WOMAN, was able to do ot all. Silky smoooooth when soft but hip swingy when she skat. Love it.
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williamtell7 6 5 3
I like Ella Fitzgerrald but want more of Doris Day songs
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...3>...
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nrivers16
;pthxu
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schweppe-jr0 3
I have a copy of a V disc (recorded during World War II era) which has Ellla meeting Gene Krupa for the first time......it ' s a treasure
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Outstanding vocalist...W O W !
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I would love to hear some of Ella without Louis Armstrong
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Beautiful duet with the best artist in the world. Love it.
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MAGNIFIQUE !!!!!!!
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Late in her career we were amazed by her ability to capture a huge audience at the Hollywood Bowl. Someone yelled out we love you Ella and she said she loved us too. After too many additional tunes because the audience wouldn't let her leave the stage, finally someone came out to take the elder Ella who by then was becoming lame from her age and diapedesis off the stage. The audience was shocked at her performance that was so full of life and fun. A true American Artist of all time.
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How beautiful is That! You'll Never expierience such delightful Music as this. What an wonderful era to have lived amoungst such tasteful talent!!
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dragonlady60 8 8
ELLA...what a beautiful voice...!"!! " ! !
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MY BELOVED ELLA, SHE HAD MY MOTHER SINGING LIKE AROUND OUR HOUSE! SHE WAS GOOD AT IT!!!I MISS HER AN MISS ELLA WITH LOVE,A SONAND FAN������
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It's so great to hear an incredibly talented woman singing clearly and purely into the mike without all the idiotic over-product i o n of today's albums. No hyped orchestratio n , no digital effects, no layers of dubbing and reverb...jus t great talent, pure and simple.
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She was a blessing from an absolute gift from god ����
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auntroro81
I love this song the title reminds Me of my best friend who tragically died in a car accident, I truly believe that he is watching over Me from heaven! I miss him a lot, he is my guardian angel when we were kids, and growing up if anybody picked on Me he would protect them, I still miss him everyday! When I go to visit his grave I tell him that I love him!;)))
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The gratest.
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MAGNIFIQUE ! ! !
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Patiently
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She is a very talented person. I love her music.
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tinytot73054
TRULY ONE OF THE BEST!
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this was truly one of the greatest female singers. Could listen to her music all day.
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I am sad that Judy Garland died;(
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dave5962
This, I Didn't Know About You, is the best Ella Fitzgerald recording I've ever heard. Later, she became so polished, so effortless, that it began to be for me rather bland, without the depth of emotional expression present here, without the phrasing anchored in those emotions as it is here. Beautiful. Ive loved Ella since I first heard her, in 1959, but this recording is the best.
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She is one of the greats , lv At last !!! Listen too your children !!!!
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AWFUL YOU ARE HORRIBLE!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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As of now, the best singer ever of all time.
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dianeabcd
sarah vaughn
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Lovely. What a wonderful voice!
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mabeljenna
She is so much better than all of those trash pop stars!
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My dad and I do impersonatio n s of her and Louis. He's sounds just like Louis but I sound nothing like her(my sister does Billie holiday)
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WOW.
Nuff tapped.:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
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Ladies and gentlemen, Ella Fitzgerald is the best voice of the 20th century. Just listen.
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