July 25, 2021

25 years without the “first lady of jazz”

June 15, 1996 at age 79 in Beverly Hills, California, Ella Fitzgerald’s voice, the greatest jazz singer that from an unequaled technique; a style that conveyed drama, tenderness and humor, especially from the development of scat; and the approach of a wide repertoire, revolutionized the role of female vocalists in the genre.

“I never thought my songs were so good until I heard them sung by Ella”, said on one occasion none other than George Gershwin, in what could be the most precise and forceful definition of this artist, who inherited the musical culture of the black race, anticipated the advent of bebop with his use of scat and ventured into various genres, including swing, blues, bossa nova, samba and ballads.

In all of them, the “first lady of jazz” or the “queen of scat”, among other ways in which it was called, stood out and laid the foundations for future artists, in many cases associated with other notable figures such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Jim Hall and Joe Pass, Among many.

But the notoriety achieved by this artist and a review of her personal history allows us to glimpse a path of self-improvement in the face of the difficulties of being a woman, poor and black in a society where prejudice and discrimination raged, and even took lives.

Born in the state of Virginia in 1917, Ella Fitzgerald He grew up in poverty between the abandonment of his father, the premature death of his mother, the passage through a boarding school for minors and some brush with the law for his fondness to get together with men to play and commit small youth outrages.

Installed from a young age in Harlem, New York, his career had an almost fortuitous starting point when he introduced himself, practically as a challenge from his friends, to a talent contest in the famous Apollo theater in that city, to show a choreography, but the mistreatment of the public to a dancer more prepared than her who acted before made her change her plans and improvised a song.

Legend has it that the wayward audience calmed down as his performance progressed, finally bursting into a standing ovation before this adolescent with an admirable vocal range and remarkable facility for perfect tuning.

Since then, with a repertoire that left out nothing of the so-called “American songbook”, his figure began to grow along with his colleagues Sara Vaughan and Billie Holliday, to reshape the jazz scene.

Source: Telam news agency