Born: April 25, 1917; Newport News, VA
Died: June 15, 1996; Beverly Hills, CA
Ella Fitzgerald stands as the most accomplished jazz singer alive, and in the pantheon of any who've ever performed. Though she has a comparatively small voice, she's compensated for that with a very wide range that she expertly controls and an amazing ability to swing. She didn't invent "scat" singing, but turned it into an art form as hypnotic and inspiring as any great trumpet, sax or piano solo. Fitzgerald could have been a professionalRead more mimic, and has flawlessy imitated many famous vocalists in concert. She's a tremendous interpreter of pre-rock pop and show tunes, though not as gifted on sad songs. Her influence on numerous singers from the '40s into the present has been immense, and affected vocalists in England, Germany, Japan and Africa. Fitzgerald was orphaned in early childhood, and moved to New York to attend an orphanage school in Yonkers. She won an amateur contest sponsored by the Apollo Theatre in 1934, which led to an engagement with Chick Webb's band. From 1936 to 1939, Fitzgerald was a celebrity and hit vocalist, especially the singles "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," and "Undecided." She took over Webb's band following his death in 1939, leading it until 1942, when she went solo. During the '40s, Fitzgerald issued recordings in both jazz and pop settings. Such records as "I'm Making Believe" and "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall" with The Ink Spots (one of three duets she did with them) continued her chart run. She sang in the 1942 Abbott & Costello film "Ride 'em Cowboy," then enjoyed another successful duet in 1946, this time with Louis Jordan on "Stone Cold Dead In The Market." Fitzgerald began working with promoter/producer Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1946, and the tours and projects won her a huge international following along with a big American audience. Fitzgerald also sang in a group led by her then husband Ray Brown from 1948 - 1952, and made periodic film appearances. The biggest was "Pete Kelly's Blues," a '55 movie whose soundtrack, with Fitzgerald sharing the spotlight with Peggy Lee, made the charts. After a decade, Fitzgerald severed her ties with Decca and joined Granz's new company, Verve. One of their first projects was a series of two-record "songbooks," dedicated to the nation's premier songwriters like Cole Porter (the lead release), Rodgers And Hart, and George and Ira Gershwin. Nelson Riddle among others provided jazz-tinged arrangments, and these sets enabled Fitzgerald to reach (cross over) the general audience. She also had smash albums singing with Louis Armstrong, with whom she'd make several other successful records, Count Basie, Ellington, Marty Paich, and Riddle. Granz, Fitzgerald's manager since the late '40s, kept her very busy, issuing her records regularly and booking constant festival dates, where she'd work with Ellington, Basie, Oscar Peterson, Tommy Flanagan (her regular pianist for many years) and Joe Pass. She kept going into the '70s, expanding her repetorie with an album of Afro-Latin music, Embraces Antonio Carlos Jobim, and more projects with Basie, Riddle, Brown, Pass and Flanagan. Fitzgerald had eye surgery in the early '70s, and since battled recurring vision problems and illnesses in the '80s. A recognized treasure, several retrospective sets were issued in 1993, in recognition of Fitzgerald's 75th birthday. She still makes an occasional appearance. Read less
There are 9 Ella Fitzgerald recordings available.
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