Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Hi everyone,

Image courtesy of William Gottlieb
In February, I attended a fantastic lecture about Ella Fitzgerald called "The Incomparable Ella." John Edward Hasse provided a fascinating glimpse into the singer's life through film clips, audio recordings, and personal stories.

In fact, he told us that, long ago, he had written a letter to Ella Fitzgerald on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, asking if she would consider donating some of her memorabilia. Although he never heard from her, he got a call from her son after she died and was offered the opportunity to go through her things for the Smithsonian's collection. As he did so, he found his letter buried in the back of a nightstand drawer! I guess the answer was yes. (Mr. Hasse went on to co-curate the National Museum of American History's exhibition "Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song" in 1998.)

Although I have lots of Ella Fitzgerald's songs on my iPod, I didn't know much about her before this evening. This 2-hour informative, entertaining seminar flew by, leaving me feeling inspired by this amazing lady who never sang a bad note. As Mr. Hasse says, "I have yet to find anyone who says they don't like Ella Fitzgerald." Here are some things I learned about the First Lady of Song:
  • Before she was famous, she entered amateur singing contests for cash prizes. She won.
  • Her influences include Bessie Smith, Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters, and Louis Armstrong.
  • For a few years, she was married to bassist Ray Brown. 
  • She suffered from stage fright all her life. (I don't see it.) 
  • She collected cookbooks but hated cooking.
  • She used to run out of her Beverly Hills home to greet the tourists passing by on the Hollywood Stars Homes tour buses; sometimes, she even invited them inside! 
The rare performances that Mr. Hasse shared during his lecture not only complemented his expertise, but made the event really special. Listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing is good for the soul. "The Incomparable Ella" appropriately describes her talent and grace; I could also add "otherworldly." 

I looked through YouTube for one of the many performances I noted during this seminar as "awesome." While I couldn't find her performance of "Angel Eyes" that gave me chills, which I'd planned to share here, I spent hours listening to her sing other songs just as perfectly. Here's one, "Misty" (by Erroll Garner and John Burke), which she performed with The Tommy Flanagan Trio in London, 1965: 

Illustration Friday's topic, Voice, can only refer to the one and only Ella, don't you think? Here, Ashes pays tribute to one of our heroines. (Ashes really does sing like this at home all day long. Can you hear her?) 

Voice (April 27, 2014)
(Illustration Friday: February 28, 2014)

Now, if you haven't already, go add some Ella to your music library. You can thank me later.

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