Hisbits: Ella Completely 

Wikimedia Image
Wikimedia Image

Completely, that’s one of the meanings of her name. It’s also the definition of her influence in the world of Jazz. For no name evokes more power in that genre’s history, than the name Ella Fitzgerald.

[tweetthis]She went from a singer to a headliner who turned forgotten words into her industry’s greatest prize.[/tweetthis]

She was 17 when she won first prize on Amateur night at the famous Apollo theater. Soon after, she was signed by Chick Webb’s Orchestra and began appearing at the also famous Savoy. It was this orchestra that she would go on to lead after his death in 1939.They renamed the band, Ella and her Famous Orchestra. She continued as it’s leader until 1942, then began her solo career. Their music had been Swing, but its decline introduced Ella to her destiny, first to Be-Bop, and then Jazz music in general.

Working with Dizzy Gillespie, she loved Be-Bop. She described it as making her voice do the same thing as the band’s horns. Scatting was easy for Ella, and she would have stayed solely in this segment, if not for Norman Granz, her manager.

Upon leaving Decca records, he felt she was limiting her range. His suggestion was an album that became The Cole Porter Songbook. This record of Porter’s music showcased that Ella had simply to sing, to change the musical world.
From 1956 to 1964, she made eight songbook albums.

These make up a large portion of what we now call, The Great American Songbook.  It’s a collection of our musical history. While unquestionably Jazz royalty, her songs spanned genres, crossed cultural lines, and entertained all around the world from the White House to London and beyond.

Lady Ella, as she was also labeled, had many famous stories, but this one is my favorite. It was in 1960, halfway around the world, during the album Ella In Berlin. She forgot the words to the song Mack The Knife. For anyone else, this would have been a disaster, but this was Ella. She filled in the areas with scat, and won a Grammy for the song.

As for influence, this was the lady who helped bring Sinatra out of retirement in the seventies. Her performances and collaborations ranged from Count Basie to Rod Stewart. When I think of her though, one man stands beside her, Louis Armstrong.

They made three albums together, in my opinion, the combination of her amazing voice with his gravely tone can’t be beat. These two individuals who began with almost nothing, more than most, built more than record labels and a genre of music. They were a symbol of what hard work can accomplish, and where it can take you.

It was this commitment that propelled her from an orphanage escapee to a bandleader, a normally male position. She went from a singer to a headliner who turned forgotten words into her industry’s greatest prize. That made it possible for a little girl who wanted to sing, to become the Queen of Jazz. Ella, completely, it fits.

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