Yesterday local artist Sasha Frank and I sat down for an intimate chat with author Geoffrey Mark Fidelman and Grammy Nominated musician Patti Austin to learn more about the legendary life of Ella Fitzgerald.
Tonight we celebrated Ella Fitzgerald’s legendary reign in music. Her contribution to the jazz art form left an imprint on us all and earned her the first Grammy award as an African American woman; with thirteen Grammy awards during the life of her career.
Patti Austin explains “Ella was what we call a flat-foot singer, she just stands there and destroys you.” Her voice just flowed out and she could sing any riff or scat or notes played back to you no matter how many bars.
Geoffrey Mark said at sixteen Ella had the dedication to study notes from rehearsal with the band and the mentality that she didn’t want to be left behind, or hold back the band. She would learn and morph as music in the industry changed, staying a part of it.
Patti Austin mentioned that Ella was painfully shy. Patti puts on a decade long show attributed to Ella and described learning and arranging Ella’s songs, in order to perform them, like going into Ella’s closet and taking each dress to the tailor for a fitting. The more she learns about Ella’s musical choices and instrumental influence, the more Patti understands where Ella’s vocal sounds and musical savvy originated. Patti’s goal is not to imitate Ella, more so to share a unique version to keep Jazz and the classics of Ella’s powerful influence on American history and culture living and breathing.
Geoffrey Mark discussed that Ella faced racial hardships. Once many people found out she was black, they would react and many chose not to support her music knowing she was African American.
Also, interesting to know is that Marilyn Monroe loved Ella. She was one of the stars who helped break the race barrier of Ella not being able to book major venues due to discrimination at the time. Marilyn made an arrangement with a big time venue to reserve a table for all of the dates Ella played. This was a bold and progressive action which helped the success of not only Ella but many artists who followed.
Patti added that she celebrates Ella music because she doesn’t want it to go away. She is keeping jazz alive because “it is the foundation of our musical history to the rest of the world…It transcends all ages and has an incredible pull on people. Jazz requires a certain amount of cultivation” which many international people know a lot about, study and want to be a part of globally. Patti is determined to keep our history alive through her career as a musician.
Ella’s favorite singer was Frank Sinatra. “Musically Frank felt she was the female version of the great American song book…He adored the ground she walked on.” said Geoffrey.
When asked “Why does Ella endure as a singer and artist?” Patti replied that there was a wonderful tambour in her voice. It got richer and richer like velvet. It’s beyond compare and absolutely magnificent. Geoffrey replied Ella is the best at what she does and it satisfies our souls. That’s why there’s an Ella foundation and an exhibit. He’s releasing another book with more on Ella coming soon to follow his award winning book titled First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald for the Record.
The event was followed by some truly heartfelt jazz performance tributes to Ella. A very inspiring classic evening out and about.
Stay tuned for more fun outings! Plus more on the recent release of Invincible by yours truly Dani W. Now available on iTunes, Spotify and the usual musical suspects. Join the mailing list at www.daniellewcarter.com for VIP updates.