Its Alright With Me
Take Love Easy
The Very Thought of You
How Long Has This Been Going On
I Wished on The Moon
Too Darn Hot
All of Me
Every Time We say Goodbye
These Foolish Things
My One And Only Love
You’re the Top
Body and Soul
My Melancholy Baby
Don’t Be that Way
All Or Nothing At All
Mean to Me
Begin the Beguine
Take the ‘A’ Train
I Want to Talk About You
Do I Love You
My memories of Ella Fitzgerald go back into the the distant mists of my childhood and and from there they continue to pervade the rest of my life. I remember my father sitting at the old piano in my grandfather’s house playing “These Foolish Things” – his long fingers moving deftly on the old ivory keys and the cigarette in the corner of his mouth curling its wayward smoke around us, and even now I can summon the sense of cloudy magic which suffused my imagination in those moments.
There was a night when I was about four years old, when sometime in the small hours I was awakened to a rapping at the front door. I overheard a the low voices of my grandparents and the messenger from the house of my grandmother’s unmarried siblings, and soon the lights came on, and my grandparents were dressed and leaving with him. The news, as I was to find out the next day, was that my grand-aunt Maud had died. I must have cried and asked to accompany my grandparents, but was told I could not. My young aunt Jean who must have been around 24 years old at the time, who must have felt pressed to do so, consoled me with a tumbler of ‘sugar-water’. Whether or not I am confusing two memories or not I cannot say, but as I now recall it, my aunt put a record on her turn-table with the dark madder-coloured rubber pad, and in her room, with the shadows cast by the street-light of the rose tree outside her window, she picked me up in her arms and danced with me.
I don’t remember the song – but I remember the voice – It was Ella Fitzgerald’s.
When I was in my early twenties and living in Trinco, one stiflingly hot afternoon, I remember the radio being tuned to The Voice of America. I had been waiting for lunch to be prepared so that I could pack it in a plastic bag and take it with me to the shallow bay by Fort Frederick; I used to ride there on an old Raleigh bicycle to hunt for sea-shells in the soothing water. Instead I sat at the dining table which had turned warm to the touch from the ambient heat, and postponed my escape to the bay, and listened to that magical voice.
When I came to the U.S in ’76, that very first summer I bought two records – one of Ella with Oscar Peterson, and the other with Joe Pass. I must have played them hundreds of times, because every note of every track is engraved indelibly in my mind, and amenable to immediate recall.
To describe the effect on me of Ella’s voice, without using that trite word ‘magic,’ is impossible. It is transportive. What makes Ella’s singing so unforgettable? Could it be the perfect pitch – the impeccable timing – the ravishing tone, the brilliant and seemingly effortless scats, the confiding and straight-to-the-heart delivery, the perfect glissandos, the silky smooth modulations, the unfaltering way in which a song is carried to its conclusion, and yes, even the sometimes charmingly messed-up lyrics? But none of these things in themselves can explain the overall effect. That will always be a mystery.
I remember that sad day in the Summer of ’96, I heard on the radio that this remarkable being had left us. I listened, bereft, as the radio announcer played Ella’s exquisite version of “Do I love You” – and I heard my heart reply, as it always had in response to that imitable sound – “Yes” – and always “Yes.”
From the Wikipedia Article on Ella Fitzgerald, these two comments on her voice:
Unlike any other singer you could name, Fitzgerald has the most amazing asset in the very sound of her voice: it’s easily one of the most beautiful and sonically perfect sounds known to man. Even if she couldn’t do anything with it, the instrument that Fitzgerald starts with is dulcet and pure and breathtakingly beautiful. As Henry Pleasants has observed, she has a wider range than most opera singers, and many of the latter, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, are among her biggest fans. And the intonation that goes with the voice is, to put it conservatively, God-like. Fitzgerald simply exists in tune, and she hits every note that there is without the slightest trace of effort. Other singers tend to sound like they’re trying to reach up to a note – Fitzgerald always sounds like she’s already there. If anything, she’s descending from her heavenly perch and swooping down to whatever pitch she wants.
Henry Pleasants, an American classical-music critic, wrote this about her:
She has a lovely voice, one of the warmest and most radiant in its natural range that I have heard in a lifetime of listening to singers in every category. She has an impeccable and ultimately sophisticated rhythmic sense, and flawless intonation. Her harmonic sensibility is extraordinary. She is endlessly inventive… it is not so much what she does, or even the way she does it, it’s what she does not do. What she does not do, putting it simply as possible, is anything wrong. There is simply nothing in performance to which one would take exception… Everything seems to be just right. One would not want it any other way. Nor can one, for a moment imagine it any other way. Fitzgerald had an extraordinary vocal range. A mezzo soprano(who sang much lower than most classical contraltos), she had a range of “2 octaves and a sixth from a low D or D flat to a high B flat and possibly higher”