Winning Harlem talent contests led to Ella Fitzgerald being recommended to drummer Chick Webb whose band starred at the Savoy Ballroom. Webb hired her and she began making records and was soon the band’s leading attraction after Webb himself. Following Webb’s death in 1939, Fitzgerald became nominal leader until 1942. Thereafter, she had solo hits for Decca Records and was sometimes recorded with others. Her solo sets included an inestimable set of Gershwin songs accompanied only by pianist Ellis Larkins. This was shortly before she came under the astute care of Norman Granz and when she later signed to his label there followed a succession of albums, known as the ‘Song Books’. Each of these had songs by the composers of classic pop music, prepared by front-rank arrangers and played by lavish studio orchestras. These proved to be enormously popular with the wider audience and thus secured for Fitzgerald an unbreakable tie to the mainstream of jazz-influenced pop singing. Now, she mostly recorded solo but made some excellent duets with Louis Armstrong. Touring internationally, usually with a trio but sometimes with a larger jazz group, Fitzgerald sang until the start of the 90s when grave health issues brought her career to an end. Although Fitzgerald’s voice was light and sometimes almost childlike in its timbre, she sang with flexibility and effortless swing. Her many records set very high quality standards for her successors.
Followers: Jane Monheit, Diana Krall
Influenced By: Connee Boswell...