July 29, 2021

Ella Fitzgerald, undisputed queen of jazz

She goes on stage and stands in front of the mike. The room, packed with the public, falls silent.

‘Scat, skeet, skee, do, doodle do, Skeet, guilt, shot, do doodle do, Skoodulah ball, be-duh-be-dee zoot zoot zu’. we. ¡¡¡She is improvising !!!

The concert continues. ‘Someday he’ll come along the man I love and he’ll be big and strong the man I love’ (“Someday the man I love will come along. And he will be big and strong, the man I love”).

It is The man I Love , one of his best known compositions. The audience goes into ecstasy. Ella’s voice, seductive and transparent, seems to whisper her message in the ear of each of the spectators, any of them can be ‘that’ man.

Possessing a brilliant voice, perfect diction, and execution full of resources and skills that she never stops honing.

She is jazz, the ‘First Lady’, of the genre, a magnificent singer, with a brilliant voice, perfect diction, and execution full of resources and skills and a fighting spirit. He never stops working and insists on perfecting his most valuable tool, that unique voice that, together with a privileged ear, make him the first lady of jazz.

She was very discreet, a shy and diligent lady with a personal life without fanfare, a respectable lady with only one vital goal: to perfect her art. Make your voice a technically perfect instrument.

But for lovers of the genre something is wrong: her biography does not fit the stereotypes of the classic jazz singer. His life, although hard, was not tragic and his voice reflects that testimony. Unlike her ‘co-stars’ Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan especially, with whom she was part of the so-called triumvirate of female voices of the genre, her interpretation is not tragic and torn. Ella’s voice is a song of joy and even when it reaches a dark tone of introspection, it does not fall into tragedy.


Video


And it’s not that Ella didn’t have a poor childhood: she did, never knew her father and suffered the cruelty of racism. But he faced life with joy and above all with a will to improve himself.

After fleeing at the age of 15 from an orphanage, he began dedicating himself to dancing in the streets of Harlem, until the day when ‘hips of a snake’, his nom de guerre, decided to appear in a contest of amateur singers at the famous Apollo theater in Harlem.

It runs 1934 and She is around 16 years old. She appears without much conviction, but there she draws the attention of drummer Chick Webb, who hires her for his orchestra. His career takes off. She begins to record albums, Webb contributes to forge her style and with this ‘big band’, she records in 1938 A tisket, a tasket, a highly successful album, one of the most important musical themes in history. When Webb died prematurely in 1939, the singer took over the direction of the orchestra until 1941, the year of its dissolution: ‘They allowed me to conduct a little so that I would have the illusion that I was the leader of the orchestra’, she would say with humor to the refer to that stage.


Read also

Teresa Amiguet

Towards the end of the 40s, she performed with the pianist Oscar Peterson and married one of his band members, the double bass player Ray Brown. The link is brief: after four years the couple divorces and Ella remains with the custody of Ray Brown Jr., a son of their union. It is 1952 and in the middle of the bebop explosion, She begins to develop the ‘scat’ technique (an onomatopoeic sequence imitating the sounds with which we open the article). Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet is his inspiration: ‘I tried to make my voice sound like a trumpet,’ he explained. In 1946, the legendary jazz businessman Norman Granz had begun to protect his career, a decisive fact for it. Included in the historic world tours of ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’ (JATP), Granz opened the doors of the great record companies and selected her repertoire with songs by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, the Gerswhin, or Irving Berlin, among others.

She had never studied music. Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet was his inspiration

They would become his teachers, he acknowledged, since he had never studied music. The diffusion of her albums made her popular all over the world, and titles such as Lady be good, How high the moon?, Tea for two, O Summertime went on to top the charts. At the peak of his career he would record several already legendary albums with Louis Armstrong and 26 concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York.

‘Through the years when I look back and think about what I’ve been through, I always wonder: was it worth it?’ She on her 75th birthday, already turned into the great black ‘Mammy’. The singer had recorded 250 albums, had won 13 Grammy Awards and the National Medal of Arts, the highest artistic award in the United States.

But She was beginning to waver. Starting in 1985, she was repeatedly hospitalized. Lung problems, open heart surgery and finally the dreaded diabetes wrecked his health. In 1993, almost blind, her legs were amputated. Locked up in her house, courageous, she knew how to cope with the disease with dignity.

His private funeral, traffic was interrupted on the freeway, all vehicles gave way to his funeral procession

After a long agony, death finally won the battle. She was forever silent on the night of June 15, 1996, she was 79 years old.

The first lady of jazz, the high priestess of song, had died. The echo of his loss reached the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a wreath of white flowers was placed next to his star. At the time, a marquee at the Hollywood Bowl theater read: ‘Ella, we’re going to miss you.’

Her private funeral, traffic was interrupted on the freeway, all vehicles gave way to the funeral procession of ‘Mammy’ Ella.