This article is copyright 1994 by Antonio J. García and originally was published in the International Association of Jazz Educators Jazz Educators Journal,Vol. 27, No. 2, December 1994. It is used by permission of the author and, as needed, the publication. Some text variations may occur between the print version and that below. All international rights remain reserved; it is not for further reproduction without written consent.
In Tribute: Ella Fitzgerald
by Antonio J. García
Songbooks and scat...small-group jazz through full orchestra...nearly sixty years of live concerts and recordings.... Whether swinging hard or caressing a lyric, Ella Fitzgerald has always delivered the jazz message with apparent ease and breathtaking accuracy, sending her emotions through us in a manner both charming and striking in its impact.
No tribute to Ella can represent fully what she has accomplishedor how she is cherishedyet proper efforts must be made. For its part, IAJE will present her with a tribute at its upcoming conference in Anaheim, California. While illness may prevent her from attending, you are invited to this event to show her representatives your appreciation for her contributions to jazz, to music in general, and to the message of goodwill she has always carried from the U.S. to countries around the world and back.
What more can be said about our First Lady of Jazz?...our First Lady of Song! I asked a number of artists, many of whom have performed with Ella, to offer their thoughts about her. Their responses show the impact of her talent, her musicianship, and her love for those around her.
Speaking for myself, I have always described the more than fifty concerts I performed in her company as "the closest thing to grand larceny I've ever committed"for surely getting paid to participate in such joyous occasions was akin to stealing. But in hearing from the artists quoted belowmany of whom had far fewer opportunities than I to work with Miss FitzgeraldI realize even more just how fortunate I have been. "Grand larceny" is too mild a term for the musical riches I have been freely given, and yet we can all continue to share in the wealth of recordings presented us so generously by the one and only Ella Fitzgerald.
One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn't save a tiny slip of paper bearing Ella Fitzgerald's autograph, which was graciously presented by her to an appreciative fourteen year-old Frank Foster on December 31, 1942. The occasion was a New Year's Eve dance at Cincinnati's Coliseum (a black-owned dance hall). I was a member of the Andrew Johnson band backing up Ella, the guest artist that night. Her message read: "Happy New Year to a neat little sax player."
One of my dumbest moments in life happened fifteen years later (1957) while chatting with Ella at the bar in Birdland, New York's then Jazz-Corner-of-the-World. It was during a Count Basie Band intermission when I so proudly said to her, "You know, Ella, my wife is crazy about you; she's one of your biggest fans." She responded with the question, "And how do you feel?" "Oh, I feel fine" was my reply. I felt like hiding under the bar when she came back with: "I mean about my singing." Of course, I cleaned up with a lavish compliment of my own for her.
Recently, a packed auditorium in London, England was the scene of one of my happiest moments: where I heard Ella calling me back to the stage to accompany her on "Lady Be Good." As the Basie Orchestra sat behind her, the words "Frank, where are you?" reached my ears. I grabbed my horn and ran back on stage to trade fours with her, and she blew me away with that inimitable scatting style of hers. The BBC was honoring the First Lady of Song with the opening of a new Jazz radio station...a fitting tribute of which the Orchestra and I were happy to be a part. And oh yes, after 51 years of knowing her, I still feel fineabout Ella, that is.
What's more, only the First Lady of Song could pen the lyrics to my best-known composition, "Shiny Stockings," in twenty minutes during a 1961 recording session with the Count Basie Orchestra in New York City.
Frank Foster, tenor saxophonist/composer/leader of the Count Basie Orchestra
She influenced many girl singers; the band leaders used to tell their singers, "Go listen to Ella Fitzgerald if you want to learn how to sing." In those days bands worked on the radio; so there was instant rapport with an audience. And the technique in those days was that "less is much more": the voice just did it. As one great performer used to say, "You go to the studio, you say the words, you take the money, and you go home." You didn't talk about method-singing, like method-acting: just do it, man, that's all. And Ella did the songs the way the composers loved it. The Gershwins, Cole Porter, Berlin...whoever!
I had heard her before I ever met her: she was singing with Chick Webb at the Savoy Ballroom in New York City. Later I met her in Chicago, when she came to the Regal Theater after Chick died. There was a regular vaudeville show there with a dance team"Chuck & Chuckles." One of the fellows got sick and had to go to the hospital, and his partner wouldn't work without him.
Someone had the bright idea that the young man who was working the stage door, Joe Williams, could sing a few songs in that slotand I did. And every time I finished, she was in the wings. And when she finished, of course, I was in the wings. One day I picked her up in my arms and carried her to her dressing room. So we've had a love affair going for a long time, and we've worked together a number of times.
She is the most perfect of the song stylists. Someone said something about Helen Humes once that really holds true for Ella Fitzgerald: "She never lost that sweet-sixteen sound." And that is what it was about: she was always that little girl inside of her that wanted to get out. I love that about a woman.
Joe Williams, vocalist
Because these artists themselves represent a significant contribution to jazz, I have followed their names with a brief description of their craft in the hope of better introducing them to any novice jazz followers who may be reading this article. Be forewarned, however, that the simplicity of all attempted descriptions tends to limit these individuals, whose creativity deserves thorough listening and study.
I first heard of Ella Fitzgerald after she won the amateur contest, shortly before she joined Chick Webb. We were all fairly well kids at that point, and everyone I knew of was raving about her. Though her records were around, I didn't really get to hear her until she got to the Savoy Ballroom.
She's just about the most amazing thing I could ever have known. The more I talk to other singers about Ella, the more I realize what a job she had done. Just the average amount of tunes that she had in her mind to be able to sing: she had about 5,000 songs! No one realizes how much of a task it is to walk around the room and say to the guests, "What would you like to hear?"and they'd name a song and she'd sing it. What a chance to take! But Ella was always able to do that.
The other great thing about her is that no matter what kind of music it is, she can sing it. She never particularly wanted to do anything other than what she chose; otherwise, she could have made tons of money if she'd just crossed over. She chose not to do that; she just wanted to "dabble" in other styles so that if she chose to, she could keep up with that generation.
I know Ella as a friend; I'd escort her to New York events when she asked. She's one of the most lovely people in the business.
Mercer Ellington, composer/leader of the Duke Ellington Orchestra
I very respectfully and lovingly refer to Ella as "Sis" and love her dearly. I remember from way backwhen she was not quite the household word that she turned out to beshe used to come into St. Louis and play the Club Plantation, where I was working with the George Hudson band. Every morning after the gig we would go out into the park and play softball: 5 or 6 o'clock every morning. Joe Williams was always in town, Gerald Wilson's band, George Hudson's band, The Ink Spots, Nat King Cole, and a lot of other entertainers. It was a very, very busy music scene there at the time.
And in these softball games, Ella Fitzgerald was one of our stars because she could run and hit and throw. It was amazing how athletically inclined she was, how agile...just beautiful. Everybody loved her, even way back then.
So we've been real tight ever since those days, and I've had the pleasure of working with her on many of her albums and doing lots of tours with herincluding "Jazz at the Philharmonic" with Norman Granz. I think she's just priceless; I think she's the epitome of jazz singers. "The First Lady of Song": she rightfully deserves that title; and I love her dearly.
Clark Terry, trumpeter/scat-singer/band leader
I receive so much inspiration whenever I hear Ella, and yet I had tended to take her greatness for granted. A few years ago, however, I was jarred back to a new realization when I heard a local jazz station play her complete recorded works on the occasion of her birthday. If it is at all possible to define jazz, I would say it is done with her soulful renditions of those songs with Chick's band.
I love heralways have, always will. Musically, she's done it all. Ella, I love you.
Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophonist
She is what she is; she is unique; there's no other person like her. All you have to say is "Ella"everyone knows who you're talking about. She's had a much better life than could have been predicted for her when she was born...and with the way she was raised as an orphan and all that. But Chick Webb was the godfather; he was the saint. Without Chick, we probably wouldn't have heard from her. He kept her on the bandstand for about a year, I think, without letting her sing. He kept her there listening...just listening. She developed a helluva' set of ears. And when she was ready, she got up and sang; and she's never looked back.
Artie Shaw, clarinetist/band leader
My favorite recollection of Ella Fitzgerald is that I fell in love with her unique style of singing when, as a kid, I skated to "A Tisket, A Tasket" at the skating rink here in Indianapolis, Indiana, my home. That love affair never ended.
J.J. Johnson, trombonist
I worked with Ella Fitzgerald many years ago at the Apollo Theater when I was with the Machito Orchestra; Mario Bauza, my mentor, introduced us. Since then my Latin orchestra has performed many concerts with her; and she is a great idol for all Latinos. We look up to her as the queenas a wonderful role model for all young Latino aspirants of jazz musicwith a lot of love, respect, and admiration.
Tito Puente, percussionist/band leader
The first time I heard Ella was in the '40s, while I was still in high school. The song that really caught my ear was "Lady Be Good"the scatting was incredible. Since I was already a Bird [Parker] freak, I sure tried to follow her on that recordtrying to sing along with itbut I finally gave up. I decided, "I can't do that; so I'll just enjoy it."
I never realized how truly great she was until a few years ago, when I was teaching a vocal workshop for a semester in Graz, Austria; and they had a Monday night video class. I decided to take my students, and the tape of the evening was Ella with Joe Pass. (I think it was from a Berlin jazz festival.) While I was riveted to my seat, to say the least, I couldn't believe that these two fantastic musicians were doing what they were doingit was amazing.
So what can one say? "The First Lady of Song"?...you bet! You won't get an argument from me. I would love to meet Ella personally one day; she always appears so gracious and humblea true artist.
Sheila Jordan, vocalist
I remember in 1947 when Dizzy's band went on a tour of the South with Ella. She was a very caring person and would hold the money of the younger musicians (like me, Dave Burns, and Joe Gayles) so we would not spend everything.
She had a lady working for her named Georgia, and she could really burn [cook]. Ella would put on some wonderful meals for the musicians. I have many beautiful memories. Thanks, Ella.
James Moody, saxophonist/flutist/scat-singer
When I left England and emigrated to America in 1947, I left with very little original material. I could play in the styles of Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum; but I had no style of my own and was not about to have for another two years. In those two years I spent a valuable apprenticeship playing intermission piano in the clubs on 52nd Street in New Yorkprincipally at "The Three Deuces," where it was my pleasure to play intermission piano opposite Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Brown on bass, a left-handed drummer named Charlie Smith, and Hank Jones on piano. The union required that musicians have one day off each week; and after I had been there a few weeks, I was asked to play the show for Ella when it was Hank's night off. You couldn't have given me a better assignment! It was such an enjoyable situation, and I learned so much.
Ella Fitzgerald is just as great personally as she is musically. Once my wife took me to the club and then had to leave to take our little girl, Wendy, home to put her to bed. But before they left, we introduced Wendy to Ella, who said: "What a lovely little girlI'm going to buy her a nice big doll." Both my wife and I cautioned Wendy that sometimes show-business people mean well, but things tend to leave their minds. Not so with Ella. True to her remarkable sense of humanity, the next night she fulfilled her promise by giving Wendy the most handsome doll she'd ever seen!
Ella will be most sorely missedboth musically and personally.
George Shearing, pianist
I replaced pianist Hank Jones for a period with Ella and the Ray Brown Trio at "The Three Deuces,"we recorded an album called "The March of Time," I believe. Ella was then and is now my all-time favorite singer and one of my dearest friends; she's very special to me. The thing I love about her is that what you see is what you get: the beauty of her as a person comes out in her work. I don't think any jazz artist I know expresses so personally what she does.
She is one of the few artists I have worked withinstrumental or vocalwho led the group from the top. She swings with such authority that she is really the leader in that sense. You can hear it not only in the small-band recordings but especially the things she did with Duke Ellington and others like that.
Billy Taylor, pianist
In 1954 Norman Granz hired me to join "Jazz at the Philharmonic." Ella Fitzgerald was the star; I had the honor to play with and for her. Since then I've played many concert dates, clubs, and record dates with that great lady.
Ella Fitzgerald is a dedicated human being who possesses a voice that is pure and rich. She deserves the title "First Lady of Song"she is without peer; she is the greatest. I'm deeply honored to have been a small part of her brilliant career, and I love her.
Louie Bellson, drummer/composer/band leader
We go back to "Jazz at the Phil" in the '50s. Ella was one of the headliners; and from that point on we had the opportunity to work a lot together in different concerts.
Ella is not only one of the greatest vocalists, she's one of less than a handful of singers whom all the musicians I ever met liked. She is totally musical and so professional! I think of Ella in terms of people like Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker...pioneers, and so sophisticated. Ella has that degree of sophistication that very few musicians have, especially todayit's real genuine sophistication, not stuffy. She brought it to a higher level.
Buddy DeFranco, clarinetist
I was singing in a club called "The Gay Nineties" in Toledo, Ohio; and one of my featured numbers was "Lady Be Good," on which I scatted. I had been doing this for about five years before Ella made her recording, but after her record local people who had heard me for years said I sounded like her! It kind of ticked me off a little bit. I had always been interested in her as a singer: when Chick [Webb] had come through I of course had gone to see her. I was impressed with her singing even then, when she was in her developing stage. But I hadn't been aware that she had since become that hip. I found out she had gone on the "Jazz at the Philharmonic" tour and had listened to Dizzy and all the cats on that tour, and that had started her off in the direction of bebop and scatting in that idiom.
So I really wanted to meet her. We first got together at Basin Street East, where Lambert, Hendricks, & Bavan (who had then taken the place of Annie Ross) were on the bill with Ella. And Ella said, "I'd like you to come scat something with me." So I said "Okay," and we did "How High The Moon." She put her arm around me as we started the song; so I put my arm around her, and we sang arm in arm. Afterwards, I told her, "Ella, I'd like to thank you for putting your arm around me." "Oh, you're welcome," she replied; "but I was scared!" I thought that was so charming, very sweet. And from then on, whenever we met anywhere, we'd scat together on "How High The Moon"; it got to be kind of our signature scat theme.
She hired Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross to open for her at Wolf Trap. As we performed, we looked to stage left; and there, sitting in a chair, was Ellashe sat through our whole show. Afterwards, I told her what a compliment to us that was. She said, "Are you kidding me?" She was so kind that night, as always.
I can truthfully say Ella loves me. And the way I feel about her is hard to express...it's thicker than family; it's a love affair. I love her.
Jon Hendricks, vocalist
I worked with Ella for about thirteen years, all totaled, over three different periods beginning in 1956; and through all of that time it was always an experience I looked forward to. She is always so in tune with the musical material that she is doing; she was a good influence on me.
Tommy Flanagan, pianist
Thirty years ago at the Shakespearean Theater in Toronto I met royalty: Miss Ella Fitzgerald. There was a blizzard going on, and I was let in the back door and ushered to this great lady's dressing room. I was cold and scared, but I was met with the same warmth and sincerity that comes through her music. The music cascaded through the concert hall and brought tears to my eyes. Everything wonderful has been written about this deserving woman. I feel first there's Ella Fitzgeraldthen there are other singers.
Shirley Horn, vocalist
We played together only once, in a situation where we were sort of thrown together, back in the years when Ella was singing engagements with "Pops" [Louis Armstrong] quite a lot. I happened to be on hand, playing one tune with them"On Blueberry Hill"on a television show on Channel 5 in New York. But I came across her when I was working with Sarah Vaughan, because she would often come to hear Sarah as so many singers did: they'd often pay tribute to each other, and Ella is a gracious lady.
She is one of the most influential singers, along with Billie Holidayand the most influential in terms of scat-singing. I think there's a direct line between Ella and Betty Carter, who's probably the greatest active scat-singer today. Without Ella, I don't think any of the young singers of her day would have realized the potential of making their voices true jazz musical instruments: she was able to do that so extremely well. She is without a doubt the premiere lady of jazz of a whole era because she influenced so many peopleeven Sarah.
Sir Roland Hanna, pianist
One of my biggest musical thrills was working with Ella at Basin Street in New York City in 1966. I had recorded with her previously, and she had incorporated my solo into her live performances. She is the definitive jazz singer and, next to Louis [Armstrong], the best scat-singer ever. Every time I hear an anemic singer bleat out some feeble "Oop Shooby-Doobies" I say: "Listen to ELLA! Listen to ELLA! Listen or give it up!"
Phil Woods, alto saxophonist
Ella has always been a very gracious, marvelous, beautiful human being to me. When I first started my career I was called the baby of the great lady singers of the day. Ella, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Lena, and Dinah were really the women out there you had to look up to and admire for all of their accomplishments and for really being able to hang in there in an ever-changing industry. First and foremost, you had to admire what they could do with a song...master storytellers.
Ella always had a kind word, really supportive. Look up in the audience, and there she would be. it's not like we get an opportunity to hang out with each other or be on the same bill, having the schedules that we do; but on those rare occasions when we have a night off and are not dead tired, if we happen to be in the same place, those are the only times we get to see each other in person...far too infrequent.
I would love to be able to say to her, in person: "I LOVE YOU; and THANK YOU FOREVER for your excellence as a song stylist, for your warmth, and for being there."
Nancy Wilson, vocalist
Ella Fitzgerald is possibly the greatest singer ever, male or female. She brings an immense amount of joy and happiness not only to all her fans but even to people who didn't know it was her on the radio. She has such joy in her singing. And you can understand the words (which is not always true today).
She was very pleasant to work for, very fair; and she wanted the best from you because she asked that from herself. I love her; she's close to my wife and my two children.
Herb Ellis, guitarist
Ella Fitzgerald is the most unique combination of perfect musicianship and warm humility that we have ever witnessed. There are few musicians who can reach in a studio recording environment the quality of performance that she has attained in countless "one-take" live performances! For the skeptic (of which there are probably none) we submit her live performance of the jazz standard "How High The Moon," recorded some thirty years ago. She truly deserves her anointed title as "The First Lady of Song," as her gift is unsurpassed by vocalists/musicians past or present.
Cedric Dent, vocalist/Take 6
Ella is one of the true artists of our time. Her command of songs is incredible. She has a very unique style, and we all love her very much.
Milt Jackson, vibraphonist/Modern Jazz Quartet
Ella Fitzgerald is one of the most original artists in twentieth-century music. There will never be another one like her.
Max Roach, drummer
I remember getting my hair braided for school on mornings. The music on the hi-fi swung so hard that the rhythm made me squirm, and my mother kept saying, "Keep still, girl!" I didn't know it was "jazz" I was listening to, and I didn't know what "swing" was. All I knew was that it was musical, it made me want to dance, and I liked it.
I've always liked singing and naturally gravitated to the voice of Ella Fitzgerald from the first time I heard her on record. She always seemed to swing as hard as the band. During my teenage years I felt very comfortable indulging in the contemporary music of my peers because there was always something in her voice that assured me that she'd be around for a long time. As I passed through periods in which the appeal of several styles of music rose and fell for me, Ella's music was as constant around our house as my mother's smileand my father's authoritative warning to "turn that record player off and go to bed!"
Ella's music is a true testament to the adage, "some things never go out of style." And my life has been enriched because of it.
Vanessa Rubin, vocalist
There are not enough superlatives to describe Ella Fitzgerald's singing. She is undoubtedly one of the finest exponents of the American Popular Song. Whether she is singing a tender ballad or swinging and scatting, she has brought her own special magic to the Art of Jazz.
Marian McPartland, pianist
She is the one to listen to when you need to know how jazz should be sung, and we have had endless sessions listening to recordings of her. Some of us heard her in concert in Stockholm a few years ago, when she again proved that everything she sings sounds the best.
Anders Jalkéus, vocalist/The Real Group
I count myself very fortunate to have known Ella, not only as a fellow musician but perhaps more importantly as a true friend. During the years that I was fortunate to have been her accompanist, I learned a tremendous amountnot only about the art of backing a vocalist, but also about how to read the body language that goes along with the performance.
Just from the simple "walk-on" after she was announced, I was able to sense her present mood: by her walk and the way she held her handkerchief. If the walk was brisk and direct to the mike and the hankie clutched tightly in her closed hand, it told me that there was some amount of apprehension or nervousness present. This afforded me the opportunity of attempting to relax her somewhat by the type of introduction I played for her. Believe it or not, these intros became a very important part of our nightly performances; for if I grooved the intro properly and really got into a tempo that reached her, it would almost be a certainty that she would relax and then proceed in a much easier and relaxed vein.
At other times, if she walked out and touched me on my shoulder and the hankie hung loosely from her fingers, it served as an indication to me that she was certainly relaxed, if not even fatigued. In this case I would somehow move up the tempos a little and attempt to put an edge on the "up" tunes. When there were any interchanges between us, I would make mine somewhat edgy and very articulatedto which she would respond and carry this edge over into her continuing solo work.
These are just a few of the small ways that I grew to know Ella Fitzgerald and her humungous talents. Throughout it all, the one underlying thing that pervaded anything we did together was the amount of love and admiration and musical respect that I have always had for a genius.
Oscar Peterson, pianist
There's only one Ella, and she's always a joy to play with. Every time we played, it was just so easy: her time is great!
Gerry Mulligan, baritone saxophonist/composer/band leader
As a vocal group which is heavily influenced by both vocal and instrumental jazz, we truly admire Ella's complete musicianship. She is one of the true jazz singers, inspiring all of us that have followed. At our clinics and lectures, students often ask us who they should listen to: "Ella" is always our first reply.
Peter Eldridge, Caprice Fox, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader, Kim Nazarian, vocalists/New York Voices
While on tour in Cleveland with the "New York Voices," I managed to force my way through bodyguards and hotel security to shake Ella's hand before she disappeared into an elevator. It was my only opportunity to say, "I met Ella"; and I seized it. If I'd had the chance to prolong the moment, I would have loved to hear all about the lady's musical tales. Of course, the biggest thrill would be to actually sing with her! I truly believe she is a transcending spirit, one of God's gifts, to be shared by all.
Kim Nazarian, vocalist/New York Voices
My memories of Ella are most pleasant. She is a delight to accompany: perfect intonation, great time, beautiful phrasing on the ballads, and literally an accompanist's dream. She was and always will be "The Queen of Singers." We all love her.
Paul T. Smith, long-time pianist with Ella
She's always been quite nice to me. Once I was working at Ronnie Scott's in London and quite innocently asked if she'd like to come up and singand she did! She was most generous and complimentary. Because she is usually rather shy and business-like, her quiet demeanor hides the true depth of her understanding; I recall that she leaned over and translated a Latin inscription from a family crest on my jacket.
I show others Ella's singing, along with Nat Cole's, as a prime example of singing right on the beatas opposed to, say, Billie Holliday, who always seems to be slightly behind the beat. She is master of what she does.
Mark Murphy, vocalist
I first played with Ella in October of '64 until July '65, joining her on and off through '68. When I went back with her in December '71, I stayed until December of '92! We were out about 40 weeks a year: Europe two or three times a year, then Japan, Australiaand all over the U.S. and Canada.
The thing that is most amazing to me is her ability to sing under the most adverse conditions and just "tear everything up." One gig that stands out most was in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a symphony. We went in the night before to do a rehearsal; and she had an abscessed toothher jaw was swelling up! The conductor and the people giving the affair told her that they would gladly cancel or postpone the event until she could have this worked on. But she said, "No, that's all right; I know these people need the gig."
And so the next night, when we went on, her jaw was swollen way up; and she went up there and sang just like nothing ever happened! The musicians and organizers were saying that they'd had people cancel for a hangnail; but she went right up there and I mean just "tore it up." And then she left the next morning and flew to L.A., where they took her right from the airport to the dentist. I mean that jaw was swollen like Mohammed Ali had hit her, but she had gone right up there and sang and didn't miss a thing. That always stood out in my mind.
When you look at an artist like Ella Fitzgerald, you realize that what makes these people great is that an artist is like a projection...and the audience is a screen. And the more wattage that's in that projection, the more radiant it's going to show on the screen. And it doesn't mean someone will have to be bouncing all over the stage and jumping up and down. She could stand in one spot and just emit allllllll of this electricity, and this radiance would show up on the screen. I've seen it all over the world, even with people who didn't understand English: they'd just be spellbound in different foreign countries. The reception after her performance would be overwhelmingthat electricity, that projection was coming out and was showing radiantly on the screen.
Keter Betts, long-time bassist with Ella
I remember the "Hearts for Ella" concert I played with Benny Carter's Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall in February of 1990. Quincy Jones came up and conducted the band on one of his compositions; Tony Bennett was in the audience and came on stage; Tommy Flanagan played. The regular program included Lena Horne, The Manhattan Transfer, Cab Calloway, André Previn, Dizzy Gillespie, Melissa Manchester, Joe Williams, George Shearing, David Sanborn, Phil Woods, James Moody, Nick Brignola, Red Rodney, "Sweets" Edison, Clark Terry, Jon Faddis, Urbie Green, Slide Hampton, Al Grey, Jack Jeffers, Herb Ellis, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Louie Bellson, and Bobby Durhamthey all came out for Ella. Itzhak Perlman did a duo with Bobby McFerrin that was incredible. I was honored to be in the company of so many talented artists on that night. Stan Getz played in the saxophone section because he wanted to free up James Moody (who I think was working with Dizzy downtown) to do something together with Dizzy for this concert. Getz just came and played.
Ella, to me, is a gift from God. No one is able to sing ballads and to scat-sing as well as she does. Her voice has a certain innocence and a child-like quality that she's never lost. She always sounds like an innocent girl: it's a certain sound that nobody else has ever had. Her intonation is impeccable: I've never heard her sing anything that sounded out. So I think the world of listeners is blessed to have Ella here with us.
Jimmy Heath, saxophonist
Ella Fitzgerald is the epitome of swingthe quintessential swing spirit. She wields her voice like a trapeze artist negotiates a high wire.
Cassandra Wilson, vocalist
When you say "Ella Fitzgerald," you say "The Greatest." I've played with many, many singers in my life; and she is one of my favorites. When I was with the late, great Count Basie in 1938 she was singing with Chick Webb. From the first notes that came out of her mouth, I knew she was going to be a famous person and a great, great singer. She is a household name all over the world.
Ella is more than a great singer; she's a lady. I have nothing but the utmost respect for her. She has most deservedly earned the name "First Lady." Everybody in the world misses her performances. I think I made her last album, with Benny Carter, called "All That Jazz." Just to be on any recording with Ella Fitzgerald is an honor and a pleasure.
Harry "Sweets" Edison, trumpeter
In 1992 I paid homage to Ella Fitzgerald with my album, "In Tribute," which was dedicated to the great, legendary jazz vocalists and their songs. In 1993 I had the pleasure of performing at Carnegie Hall in New York at a concert honoring her.
Ella stands out because of her complete mastery of her craft, her timbre, sense of swing, and innate good tastewhich endeared her not only to jazz buffs but to all lovers of music.
Diane Schuur, vocalist
What can one say about Ella Fitzgerald that has not already been proclaimed, written, or thought? She is simply the most natural, sweetly swingin' singer ever to grace the planet. She epitomizes the words "simplicity" and "elegance" in her approach to the classic American songbook, and her scat-singing is perfection in its rhythmic invention and pure playfulness.
One's idols are often disappointing when met; but when The Manhattan Transfer eventually sang with Ella, we also found a warm, wonderful, and unpretentious lady. She was oblivious to our rapturous stares and "Wayne's World" prostrations before her: "We're not worthy, we're not worthy!" Instead, she sang her ass off and invited us over for coffee. Our admiration for her increased ten-fold.
When we all think of a standard of excellence as singers, we all think of Ella Fitzgerald.
Janis Siegel, vocalist/The Manhattan Transfer
With every whisper and every passage
your voice has lured us with magnificent refrain
...you have charted the path we all walk.
So now we want to thank you, Ella,
'cause you've shown us so much, Ella,
and we're grateful to you, Ella,
for every little thing that you have ever sung.
from "All Heart (Portrait of Ella)": music by Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn, lyrics by Alan Paul, vocalist/The Manhattan Transfer
Being of the vintage of the oldest acoustic bass player standing, I remember Ella when she was singing with Chick Webb; and we've been friends down through the years all the way. I had the pleasure of working briefly with her and Hank Jones several times right after Ray Brown went over to Oscar Peterson. She enjoyed the company of my wife, Mona. And I joined again with her and pianist Jimmy Jones to do some things with Duke Ellington on tour around New York. She liked to play pinochle, and so did I; backstage we had some really hot pinochle games.
It has always been a great love of ours to be around her. Just two years ago The National Endowment For The Arts named us both "National Living Treasures"; and she came to Washington D.C., where we had a nice time. We correspond periodically to keep in touch, just so she knows that some people who knew her long ago still love her. I wish her all the best, forever.
Milt Hinton, bassist
Ella Fitzgerald 75th Birthday CelebrationGRP D207094 (issued 1993, 2 CDs of Decca reissues with various artists)
Ella and Basie: A Perfect MatchPablo 231-2110 CD (1979, w/Count Basie Orchestra)
Ella in LondonPablo 2310-711 CD (1974, w/T. Flanagan, J. Pass, K. Betts, B. Durham)
Ella Sings Arlen, Vol. 1Polydor 817527-2 CD (1960-61, w/Billy May Orchestra)
The Intimate EllaVerve 829838-2 CD (1960, w/P. Smith)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin SongbookVerve 825 024-2 (1959, 3 CDs, w/Nelson Riddle Orchestra)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington SongbookVerve 837035-2 (1957, 2 CDs, w/Duke Ellington Orchestra)
Ella Fitzgerald at The Opera HouseVerve 831-269-2 CD (1957, w/R. Eldridge, J.J. Johnson, S. Stitt, C. Hawkins, S. Getz, F. Phillips, O. Peterson, H. Ellis, R. Brown, C. Kay)
Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter Songbook, Vol. 1Verve 821989-2/3112054 CD/MC (1956, w/Buddy Bregman Orchestra)
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Antonio J. García is a Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he directs the Jazz Orchestra I; instructs Applied Jazz Trombone, Small Jazz Ensemble, Music Industry, and various jazz courses; founded a B.A. Music Business Emphasis (for which he initially served as Coordinator); and directs the Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band. An alumnus of the Eastman School of Music and of Loyola University of the South, he has received commissions for jazz, symphonic, chamber, film, and solo works—instrumental and vocal—including grants from Meet The Composer, The Commission Project, The Thelonious Monk Institute, and regional arts councils. His music has aired internationally and has been performed by such artists as Sheila Jordan, Arturo Sandoval, Jim Pugh, Denis DiBlasio, James Moody, and Nick Brignola. Composition/arrangement honors include IAJE (jazz band), ASCAP (orchestral), and Billboard Magazine (pop songwriting). His works have been published by Kjos Music, Hal Leonard, Kendor Music, Doug Beach Music, ejazzlines, Walrus, UNC Jazz Press, Three-Two Music Publications, and his own garciamusic.com, with five recorded on CDs by Rob Parton’s JazzTech Big Band (Sea Breeze and ROPA JAZZ). His scores for independent films have screened across the U.S. and in Italy, Macedonia, Uganda, Australia, Colombia, India, Germany, Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Israel, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
A Bach/Selmer trombone clinician, Mr. García serves as the jazz clinician for The Conn-Selmer Institute. He has freelanced as trombonist, bass trombonist, or pianist with over 70 nationally renowned artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Mel Tormé, Doc Severinsen, Louie Bellson, Dave Brubeck, and Phil Collins—and has performed at the Montreux, Nice, North Sea, Pori (Finland), New Orleans, and Chicago Jazz Festivals. He has produced recordings or broadcasts of such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Jim Pugh, Dave Taylor, Susannah McCorkle, Sir Roland Hanna, and the JazzTech Big Band and is the bass trombonist on Phil Collins’ CD “A Hot Night in Paris” (Atlantic) and DVD “Phil Collins: Finally...The First Farewell Tour” (Warner Music). An avid scat-singer, he has performed vocally with jazz bands, jazz choirs, and computer-generated sounds. He is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). A New Orleans native, he also performed there with such local artists as Pete Fountain, Ronnie Kole, Irma Thomas, and Al Hirt.
Mr. García is a Research Faculty member at The University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa) and the Associate Jazz Editor of the International Trombone Association Journal. He serves as a Network Expert (for Improvisation Materials) for the Jazz Education Network and has served as President’s Advisory Council member and Editorial Advisory Board member. His newest book, Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading (Meredith Music), explores avenues for creating structures that correspond to course objectives. His book Cutting the Changes: Jazz Improvisation via Key Centers (Kjos Music) offers musicians of all ages the opportunity to improvise over standard tunes using just their major scales. He is Co-Editor and Contributing Author of Teaching Jazz: A Course of Study (published by NAfME) and authored a chapter within The Jazzer’s Cookbook (published by Meredith Music). Within the International Association for Jazz Education he served as Editor of the Jazz Education Journal, President of IAJE-IL, International Co-Chair for Curriculum and for Vocal/Instrumental Integration, and Chicago Host Coordinator for the 1997 Conference. He served on the Illinois Coalition for Music Education coordinating committee, worked with the Illinois and Chicago Public Schools to develop standards for multi-cultural music education, and received a curricular grant from the Council for Basic Education. He has also served as Director of IMEA’s All-State Jazz Choir and Combo and of similar ensembles outside of Illinois. He is the recipient of the Illinois Music Educators Association’s 2001 Distinguished Service Award.
Regarding Jazz Improvisation: Practical Approaches to Grading, Darius Brubeck says, "How one grades turns out to be a contentious philosophical problem with a surprisingly wide spectrum of responses. García has produced a lucidly written, probing, analytical, and ultimately practical resource for professional jazz educators, replete with valuable ideas, advice, and copious references." Jamey Aebersold offers, "This book should be mandatory reading for all graduating music ed students." Janis Stockhouse states, "Groundbreaking. The comprehensive amount of material García has gathered from leaders in jazz education is impressive in itself. Plus, the veteran educator then presents his own synthesis of the material into a method of teaching and evaluating jazz improvisation that is fresh, practical, and inspiring!" And Dr. Ron McCurdy suggests, "This method will aid in the quality of teaching and learning of jazz improvisation worldwide."
About Cutting the Changes, saxophonist David Liebman states, “This book is perfect for the beginning to intermediate improviser who may be daunted by the multitude of chord changes found in most standard material. Here is a path through the technical chord-change jungle.” Says vocalist Sunny Wilkinson, “The concept is simple, the explanation detailed, the rewards immediate. It’s very singer-friendly.” Adds jazz-education legend Jamey Aebersold, “Tony’s wealth of jazz knowledge allows you to understand and apply his concepts without having to know a lot of theory and harmony. Cutting the Changes allows music educators to present jazz improvisation to many students who would normally be scared of trying.”
Of his jazz curricular work, Standard of Excellence states: “Antonio García has developed a series of Scope and Sequence of Instruction charts to provide a structure that will ensure academic integrity in jazz education.” Wynton Marsalis emphasizes: “Eight key categories meet the challenge of teaching what is historically an oral and aural tradition. All are important ingredients in the recipe.” The Chicago Tribune has highlighted García’s “splendid solos...virtuosity and musicianship...ingenious scoring...shrewd arrangements...exotic orchestral colors, witty riffs, and gloriously uninhibited splashes of dissonance...translucent textures and elegant voicing” and cited him as “a nationally noted jazz artist/educator...one of the most prominent young music educators in the country.” Down Beat has recognized his “knowing solo work on trombone” and “first-class writing of special interest.” The Jazz Report has written about the “talented trombonist,” and Cadence noted his “hauntingly lovely” composing as well as CD production “recommended without any qualifications whatsoever.” Phil Collins has said simply, “He can be in my band whenever he wants.” García is also the subject of an extensive interview within Bonanza: Insights and Wisdom from Professional Jazz Trombonists (Advance Music), profiled along with such artists as Bill Watrous, Mike Davis, Bill Reichenbach, Wayne Andre, John Fedchock, Conrad Herwig, Steve Turre, Jim Pugh, and Ed Neumeister.
The Secretary of the Board of The Midwest Clinic, Mr. García has adjudicated festivals and presented clinics in Canada, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, and South Africa, including creativity workshops for Motorola, Inc.’s international management executives. The partnership he created between VCU Jazz and the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal merited the 2013 VCU Community Engagement Award for Research. He has served as adjudicator for the International Trombone Association’s Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, and Rath Jazz Trombone Scholarship competitions and the Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Ensemble competition and has been asked to serve on Arts Midwest’s “Midwest Jazz Masters” panel and the Virginia Commission for the Arts “Artist Fellowship in Music Composition” panel. He has been repeatedly published in Down Beat; JAZZed; Jazz Improv; Music, Inc.; The International Musician; The Instrumentalist; and the journals of NAfME, IAJE, ITA, American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Percussive Arts Society, Arts Midwest, Illinois Music Educators Association, and Illinois Association of School Boards. Previous to VCU, he served as Associate Professor and Coordinator of Combos at Northwestern University, where he taught jazz and integrated arts, was Jazz Coordinator for the National High School Music Institute, and for four years directed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Formerly the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University, he was selected by students and faculty there as the recipient of a 1992 “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching” award and nominated as its candidate for 1992 CASE “U.S. Professor of the Year” (one of 434 nationwide). He was recipient of the VCU School of the Arts’ 2015 Faculty Award of Excellence for his teaching, research, and service. Visit his web site at <www.garciamusic.com>.
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