Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cuttin' it Loose in Berlin

Ella had just recorded the famous Songbook series on the Verve label and was considered at the top of her game - her appeal now reached an audience wider than the average jazz listeners. After having recorded Ella with smooth, studio-perfect Songbook recordings, her producer and owner of the Verve label, Norman Granz, wanted to capture the live energy of Ella at concerts. He also wanted to take advantage of her new widespread popularity, so he decided to record the live concerts on her first European tour. In 1960, Ella made a stop on her European tour in Berlin. The cd recording from this famous concert would eventually be considered Ella's finest and most famous recording.

Ella's recording of her Berlin performance, appropriately titled Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife, is filled with examples of jazz genius. Twelve thousand fans packed the Berlin Deutschlandhalle to watch Ella perform such jazz standards as "The Man I Love," "Summertime," "That Old Black Magic," "The Lady is A Tramp," and "Misty." Each of these songs were sung with a type of technical-yet-effortless sound that only Ella could produce. However, the two most famous recordings from this cd, perhaps from her entire reperitoire as well, is her renditions of "Mack the Knife" and "How High the Moon."

Before she starts to sing "Mack the Knife," Ella warns the audience that there have been no former recordings of female vocalists singing this song, most likely due to the demanding range, and that she hopes she remembers all the words to the song. Halfway through the song, she forgets the some of the lyrics. Ella decided to use this as an opportunity to showcase her skill at improvising lyrics as well as notes, creating humorous lyrics on-the-spot such as "Oh, what's the next chorus to this song now/This is the one now I don't know/But it was a swinging tune and it's a hit tune/So we tried to do Mack the Knife" and "Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong/They made a record oh but they did/And now Ella Ella and her fellas/We're making a wreck, what a wreck of Mack the Knife." She also impersonates her close friend Louis Armstrong with a low scat.

On "How High the Moon," Ella scats throughout most of the piece. She uses "Ornithology", the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker's classic solo based on the chord changes to "How High the Moon", as a springboard for her own improvisation. It too is filled with little humorous lyrical improvisations inbetween her scatting, such as "I bet these people wonder what I'm singing" and "I guess I better quit while I'm ahead". Ella also would quickly incorporate other songs within her scatting as well, such as "Stormy Weather," "A-Tisket A-Tasket," "Heat Wave," and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." It has been argued that this rendition of "How High the Moon" is the greatest scat solo ever recorded by a jazz vocalist.

Ella received two Grammys for Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife, for the Best Female Vocal Performance (Single) that Year, and for Best Female Vocal Performance (Album).


Krohn, Katherine E. Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song. 19 Mar. 2001 <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=pLBEVVf69K0C&dq=Ella+Fitzgerald+%2B+Verve+%2B+Norman+Granz&prev=http://books.google.com/books%3Flr%3D%26q%3DElla%2BFitzgerald%2B%252B%2BVerve%2B%252B%2BNorman%2BGranz>.

Maliner, Michael L. "Ella Fitzgerald - A Final Word on the First Lady of Song" Good Times 30 July 1996 <http://www.maliner.com/bio/ella.htm>.

"Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife." Web page. 13 Nov. 2005 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_in_Berlin:_Mack_the_Knife>.


Blogger Keely said...

Great topic ; )

While I enjoy "Mack the Knife," I must say that "Misty" is one of my favorites!

Thursday, November 24, 2005 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger maroonbox25 said...

Stormy weather by FAR!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2005 7:57:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Spiegelberg said...

First paragraph, second sentence, has too many clauses. Possible solution: "Ella's producer and Verve owner, Norman Granz, wanted to move from smooth studio recordings to energetic concert recordings." Second paragraph, avoid the linking of many words by hyphens. "Ella sang these pieces with an imitable sound, technical yet effortless."

There should be some sort of summary, emphasizing the importance of that year. It can be included with the Grammy information.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 9:20:00 AM  
Blogger violinbrunetka said...

I had only one chance, on Tuesday night, to comment on blogs. Guess what hollywoodhottie, I was looking forward to reading Ella Fitzgerald, but I couldn't! Well now I read it, and I like the way you wrote about her, and the songs she sang. You know I'm just starting to open up to jazz music.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 9:43:00 PM  

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