“A Baker’s Dozen Playlist of Ella Fitzgerald Specialties from Five Decades,” as selected by Ella biographer Judith Tick

October 16th, 2023

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photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Ella Fitzgerald in 1946

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…..On December 5, Judith Tick’s highly anticipated Becoming Ella Fitzgerald:  The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song will be published [Norton].  The book is the first major biography of the great American singing artist since her death in 1996.

…..Beyond being a wildly popular vocalist whose work revolutionized American music, Ms. Tick – professor emerita of music history at Northeastern University – reminds readers that Ella’s “success at the microphone transformed not only her career but also the status of other female vocalists throughout the music business.”  Her book reveals Ella to be an “ambitious risktaker with a stunningly diverse repertoire, whose exceptional musical spontaneity (often radically different on stage than in the studio) made her a transformational artist.”

…..Her devotion to the life and music of Ella Fitzgerald has made Ms. Tick an expert on the quintessential artist’s recordings.  In anticipation of my upcoming interview with her, I asked her to assemble a short playlist of tracks and/or videos she would recommend to interested readers.  Her intriguing selections follow.

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Joe Maita

Editor/Publisher

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A BAKER’S DOZEN  PLAYLIST OF ELLA FITZGERALD SPECIALITIES FROM FIVE DECADES

 

Selected by

Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald:  The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song  [Norton]

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Chosen from “an amazing assortment of stuff out there,” the playlist is a mix of studio recordings, live dates, and video, all available for listening here.  Ms. Tick comments on the recordings.

 

 

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1930s

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June 2, 1936:  “Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance)”  (Hoagland Howard “Hoagy” Carmichael, Stanley Adams).  (Decca Records). With Chick Webb and His Orchestra, this was Ella Fitzgerald’s first hit on the Billboard Pop Music chart.  [Universal Music Group]

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May 2, 1938:  “A-Tisket A-Tasket” (Ella Fitzgerald, Van Alexander) with Chick Webb and His Orchestra. (Decca Records). Her signature song was number one on Billboard for 10 weeks and made her an internationally known artist.  [Universal Music Group]

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1940s

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August 30,1944: “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” (Doris Fisher, Allan Roberts) with the Ink Spots.  (Decca Records).  A million-record seller and a classic of Black pop.  [Universal Music Group]

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March 19, 1947: “Oh, Lady Be Good” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin). Decca Records’ release launched Fitzgerald’s reputation as a bop artist.  [Fitzgeraldinosa Musica Records]

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1950s

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March 14, 1953: “St. Louis Blues” with Oscar Peterson, a radio broadcast from Lausanne released posthumously on the CD,  Swiss Radio Days,  2006. A virtuoso transformation of this standard.  [The Orchard]

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November 18, 1953: “Body and Soul” (John W. Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyto). From Jazz at the Philharmonic—J.A.T. P.. in Tokyo—Live at the Nichigeki Theatre, 1953.  An exceptionally intimate interpretation.  [Universal Music Group]

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February 8, 1956:  “Let’s Do It” (Cole Porter) from the landmark double LP album  Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book (Verve Records). This is one of her favorite Porter tunes.  [Universal Music Group]

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January 8, 1959: “But Not For Me.” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin).  A lush Nelson Riddle arrangement from  Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book. (Verve Records)  [Universal Music Group]

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1960s

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October 17, 1965: “Duke’s Place” [aka “C-Jam Blues”] (Duke Ellington).  From Ella at Duke’s Place  (Verve, 1966).  [Universal Music Group]

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November 13, 1967: “The Lady is a Tramp” (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart), the famous duet between ‘Ella and Frank,’ telecast on the Frank Sinatra special,  A Man and His Music—Ella and Jobim.

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February 11, 1968: “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” (Don Gibson) from a telecast concert in Berlin, with Ella in “Soulsville,” as she said, offering a 10-minute commentary on the intersections between gospel and soul via Ray Charles’s hit.

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1970s

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August 2, 1972: “What’s Going On,” (Marvin Gaye),  Jazz at the Philharmonic Live at the Santa Monica Civic ’72. (Pablo).  Ella Fitzgerald and the Count Basie Orchestra bringing jazz to the younger generation.  [Universal Music Group]

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October 27, 1975:  “Cry Me a River,” with Joe Pass,  Duets in Hanover, telecast on German television; DVD, Impro-Jazz, 2008.

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photo by James W. Blackman

Judith Tick is professor emerita of music history at Northeastern University.  She has published award-winning books and articles about American music and women’s history in music, including Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer’s Search for Music.  She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Her book, Becoming Ella: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Music [Norton] will be published on December 5, 2023

Click here for details about the book

An interview with Ms. Tick will appear in Jerry Jazz Musician in December, 2023

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Click here to read “Ella Fitzgerald, in poems by Claire Andreani and Michael L. Newell”

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