Tuesday, April 25, 2017

For the love of Ella ...

And that's a perfect example of Ella at her best.  Extraordinary.  No other word can describe it.


She was everything you have always assumed her to be: a modest, at times painfully shy woman, whose all-consuming raison d'etre was to sing for those millions of us who thrilled hearing her perfect voice and infectiously playful, swinging improvisations.  Born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia, endless streams of data are being cited by radio hosts and music scholars around the world marking this date of her birth one hundred years ago.

My awareness of her silken voice and dazzling scat singing began when I was a teenager, a time when Ella's voice was heard with predictable regularity emanating from my compact AM-FM Bendix radio.  It was a state of the art little band box: One dial to turn it on (and also control the volume), and one dial to locate a signal.  It was one of my most prized possessions along with the portable turn-table on which I played my growing collection of 78s, 45s, EPs and LPs. .

The radio sat on my bedside table, allowing me to easily control the sound, kept low to keep from disturbing my parents or my sister in adjoining bedrooms. Those late-night disc jockeys were my heroes, generously sharing their enthusiasm for the music, and more importantly for me, identifying the musicians, names which were well-known to seasoned enthusiasts, but totally new to me, filling the empty spaces of my brain greedily absorbing this new and exciting information.  I was learning about jazz, its soloists and singers who introduced me to a music I'd forever embrace.

Not surprisingly, I didn't realize my voice contained qualities similar to Ella's, so I studied her distinctive sound, tried to emulate her precise diction, flawless intonation and fastidious choice of material.  Like her, I never received formal vocal training, unable to this day to read music. However, her brilliantly straight-forward approach made it relatively easy to memorize songs, and her approach became my personal User's Manual, forming the basis of my own repertoire.

Her ballad interpretations, which were stunning for their pristine, uncomplicated interpretations, could, did and do break my heart.  Her voice possessed a graceful fluidity, combined with a brilliant demonstration of her particular genius in which she created improvisations equal to any major jazz musician of that period.
She was simply my idol..

Because I bought her records and studied them with youthful zeal, in my view we were and remain connected with umbilical strength.

May she never be forgotten.

-Carol Sloane
Visit www.carolsloane.com 

A portion of this article appears in the March, 2017 issue of The New York Jazz Record

And then there is this oft-told incident
which I recently posted at
my FaceBook Home Page ....

Circa 1975:  I am sitting beside Ella Fitzgerald, in the VIP section of a major European airport lounge, awaiting the announcement of our flight departure. At the time, I was Jimmy Rowles' traveling companion to who took the piano chair after Tommy Flanagan retired from that position he'd held for over twenty years.  It was Tommy who recommended Jimmy to Ella's manager, Norman Granz.

There beside Ella, I couldn't resist the golden opportunity to ask:  "Ella. Is it possible, with your vast repertoire, you have a favorite song?"  She replied without hesitation: "Oh yes", and began to sing the beautiful verse that begins: "I have almost everything a human could desire."*  She asked me if I knew it, and when I said I did, and we began to sing the rest of the verse together.  Just the two of us.

In a quiet corner of a luxury space reserved for exclusive first-class passengers, I knew I was the most privileged of them all.


-Carol Sloane

 * "I Want Something To Live For" by Billy Strayhorn


Grrrowler said...

What a lovely post. Thank you for it.

You stunned me by pointing out that you have never had formal voice training and cannot read music. At the risk of sounding overly effusive, it makes your beautiful voice even more impressive; it's pure talent that we're hearing.

Hopefl said...

Your silk and scat are standards now,
The man you loved was one lucky fella!
Your voice and style will live forever...
Happy hundredth birthday, Ella.

mad4mcrae said...

A Wonderful tribute to the "First lady".....Happy Birthday Ella.
Your memories of time spent with her are treasures, that we are so lucky to peek at through your words.
Paul Mikos

Connie Ciampanelli - RI said...

What a heartfelt and beautiful tribute to one of the most beautiful and influential American voices. She was, and always will be, a treasure, special to so many.
Your love for her and all she gave to you are evident stunning.

Happy Centenary Ella Fitzgerald.

I second the comment expressing surprise that you took no formal training nor read music.

Sloane said...

Hi everybody ... and thanks for taking the time to write about my modest Ella tribute.

Appreciate it ...


Tom Liberty said...

Extremely well written tribute! This is existing proof you are equally talented at verbal expression as you are comfortable in front of a microphone. Our admiration for Ella is mutual as is her rendition of "Something To Live For". If ever your autobiography becomes a reality, your authorship will be up to the task.

Your Facebook pal, Tom

Sloane said...

Thanks Tom Liberty ... Ella was more than a friend, and those moments in the European airport are among many I spent with her.

The book is taking its sweet time, and I ignore it for days at a time, but progress is being made.

In Toronto singing with Bill Charlap June 24 (see www.carolsloane.com) ...

Very kind of you to take the time to write.

Cheers ..