Singer, bandleader, performer. Another jazz musician with an exceptionally long career.
Ella Fitzgerald first performed on stage in 1934 in the Apollo Ballroom’s talent contest. Which she won. But it was her meeting with Chick Webb in 1938 that led to her singing with his band at the Savoy Ballroom, and later leading the band after his death in 1939. Her first major hit was with ‘A-tisket, A-tasket’.
The Savoy Ballroom was of course the ‘home of happy’ feet, and Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, the lindy hop troupe led by Frankie Manning. And Chick Webb’s Orchestra was the Savoy’s house band for years.
In 1942 Ella moved on with a solo career, managed by Norman Granz, who later founded Verve records and was instrumental in jazz history. Ella was, of course, just beginning. During the 40s she developed her signature scatting style, working closely with bebop musicians.
By the 1950s Ella was the centrepoint of Verve records, and in 1956 she released her first ‘song book’ album: Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. Over the next ten years she released eight of these albums celebrating the work of important composers.
The Duke Ellington Songbook is one of the most important for dancers, as she scats ‘vocals’ for Ellington’s instrumental arrangements. And, most importantly Ella sings with Ellington’s band on the album.
Another of Ella’s important collaborations was with Louis Armstrong, on their two studio albums: Ella and Louis (1956), and Ella and Louis Again (1957). These albums feature musicians who were stars in their own rights: Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown (Ella’s second husband), and Buddy Rich.
Ella Fitzgerald’s career continued on into the 70s, but perhaps her last greatest recordings for dancers were her live concerts in the 60s and 70s. Twelve Nights in Hollywood was recorded live at the Crescendo nightclub to a smaller audience. They capture some of Ella’s glorious scatting and famously misremembered lyrics.