Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996) possessed one of the 20th century’s most astonishing voices. Music historian Judith Tick examines how Fitzgerald fused a Black vocal aesthetic with mainstream popular repertoire to revolutionize American music. From her first audition at the Apollo Theater to swing-era success at the Savoy, Tick illustrates how this “girl singer” broke new ground: as a female bandleader, as an innovative bebop improviser, and as the arbiter of the American canon with her “Song Book” recordings of works by iconic composers.
Yet even as she electrified concert halls and sold millions of records, jazz critics belittled her as “naïve.” Tick reveals instead an ambitious risk-taker with a stunningly diverse repertoire, whose exceptional musical spontaneity (often radically different on stage than in the studio) made her a transformational artist.
Tick’s book Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song (W. W. Norton & Company) is available for purchase.
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