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Jazz And Blues Legends

The Rough Guide To Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald


From her early career on the streets of Harlem, through her jazz, blues and bebop eras, Ella Fitzgerald enthralled the world with her stunning vocals and incredible range. This Rough Guide has been lovingly re-mastered to present one of the greatest legacies of recorded music and confirms, once again, why she was hailed as the First Lady of song.


Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on 25 April 1917 in Virginia, and shortly afterwards, moved to Yonkers, New York. She made her stage debut at just 17 at the famous amateur talent night at Harlem's Apollo Theater and then began singing with Chick Webb’s Orchestra. Her first million-seller came in 1938 when she worked up the nursery rhyme ‘A-Tisket A-Tasket’ into a song, creating the Webb Orchestra’s biggest hit, and over the next few years she was to record almost 150 sides with them.

After leaving for a solo career in 1942, she embarked on a thrilling series of duets with The Ink Spots and some wonderful sides with Louis Jordan and one of her heroes Louis Armstrong, of whom she perfected her own impersonation on ‘Basin Street Blues’. She also became one of the finest improvisational scat singers, with her bebop-inspired ‘Oh Lady Be Good’ being regarded as one of the pinnacles of the style. In 1948 she began working with Norman Granz who encouraged her to record her seminal series of ‘songbook’ albums. She followed Ella Sings Gershwin with the flawless Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook, and, over the next eight years produced six more ‘songbook’ albums.

She continued to record and perform into her seventies, and her voice – despite growing a little harsher around the edges – lost little of its power. She died in 1996, at the age of 79, from diabetes. Ella once said, ‘The only thing better than singing is more singing.’ Sadly, even the voice of the first lady of song had to be stilled eventually. Fortunately, she leaves us one of the greatest legacies in recorded music.

The bonus disc features many of the artists that Ella worked with and whom she influenced, including The Ink Spots, Louis Armstrong, The Mills Brothers, Buddy Rich, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Count Basie, along with fellow divas and kindred spirits such as Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan...