A Century of Lady Ella

April 25, 2017

Growing up with her stepfather in New York, Ella’s childhood wasn’t a happy one. During a November 1934 talent night in Harlem’s illustrious Apollo Theater, she decided to sing rather than dance. Her impromptu performance left a deep impression on the attending saxophonist Benny Carter, who brought her to the attention of drummer and big bandleader Chick Webb. Their hit “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” brought Fitzgerald to the attention of the nation. When Webb died in 1939, Fitzgerald took over his big band.

When the swing era came to an end in the mid-1940s, Fitzgerald turned out to be an excellent improv bebop vocalist. This vocal flexibility earned her several honorific nicknames, including “The First Lady of Jazz”. Her popularity reached new heights in the late 1950s and early 1960s due to her concept albums dedicated to the popular compositions of the likes of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Jerome Kern: the “First Lady of Jazz” became “First Lady of Song”.

Fitzgerald frequently teamed up with other jazz greats. In the 1950s, she recorded three highly acclaimed duet albums with Louis Armstrong for the Verve label. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn were among her regular collaborators. Fitzgerald won countless awards, and has sold over 40 million albums.

Tuesday, April 25 at 21:00 CEST | The First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald '57 & '63

Ella Fitzgerald: Live in '57 & '63 features “The First Lady Of Song” in two distinct performances. The first is the earliest known complete Ella concert to be captured on film. Shot in Belgium, this 1957 concert features her performing with jazz greats Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Jo Jones and the legendary Oscar Peterson on classics such as “Lullaby of Birdland” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing)”. The second show is an intimate in-studio performance from 1963, taped in Sweden, featuring Ella backed by a quartet including pianist Tommy Flanagan. Highlights include stellar versions of “Mack the Knife” and “Just One of Those Things”.

Musicians: Ella Fitzgerald, Don Abney, Ray Brown, Jo Jones, Herb Ellis, Roy Eldridge, Tommy Flanagan, Jim Hughart, Gus Johnson
Producer: Reelin’ in the Years
Video Director: Tom Gullota
Location: Belgium, Sweden
Year: 1957, 1963

Tuesday, April 25 at 22:00 CEST | Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Vocalist extraordinaire Dee Dee Bridgewater pays tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald with songs like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”, “Mack the Knife”, and other all-time Ella favourites. Bridgewater is accompanied by, among others, the legendary Ray Brown, who married Ella Fitzgerald in the late 1940s.

Musicians: Jay Clayton, Ray Brown Trio, Dee Dee Bridgewater, WDR Big Band
Location: JazzFest, Berlin, Germany
Video Director: Wolfgang Kraesze
Video Provider: EuroArts Music International
Year: 1997