Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Ella Fitzgerald

Dr. Bob Prescribes Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington

My Music History Monday post back on June 15, 2020, marked the death on June 15, 1996, of the the “First Lady of Song,” the “Queen of Jazz,” “Lady Ella”: of Ella Jane Fitzgerald, at the age of 79.   Music History Monday for April 29, 2024 (just last week!), marked the birth of “The Duke”: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, on April 29, 1899. Ella and Duke.  They knew each other, loved each other, and performed and recorded music together for half a century.  They were, the cliché, be damned, a musical marriage made in heaven.  And thus, in my self-proclaimed “Year of Popular American Song,” this album of songs associated with Duke Ellington – which, BTW, is one of the greatest recordings ever made (no hyperbole that; just fact) – just screams to be examined and prescribed.   And so we shall. Ella and Duke Up Close and Personal I would introduce you all to Leonard Geoffrey Feather (1914-1994). He was a London-born jazz pianist, composer, and producer, who nevertheless is best known today for his books and essays about jazz and his jazz criticism (he was the chief jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times from the 1960s until his […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes Ella Fitzgerald

Here’s what happened: On November 21, 1934, the 17 year-old Ella Jane Fitzgerald participated in one of the first “Amateur Nights” held at the Apollo Theater, the famed music hall located at 253 West 125th Street in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. Fitzgerald and a friend named Charles Gulliver had created a dance routine that they performed in local clubs, and it was as a dancer that she intended to perform at the Apollo.  Young Ella was preceded on stage by a local dance duo called the Edwards Sisters. The sisters must have been good, because the excessively shy and most definitely gawky Ella Fitzgerald was intimidated down to her cockles (don’t ask) and decided on the spot not to dance but instead, to sing a couple of songs. From such serendipitous events do the greatest of things often develop.  Fitzgerald’s decision to sing instead of dance didn’t come completely out of the blue; she’s been singing on the streets of Harlem for roughly a year for the loose coin or two. She sang in the style of her hero, Connee Boswell (1907-1976), later saying that: “My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I […]

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