Jazz great Ella Fitzgerald remembered on her 100th birthday
B.C. jazz musicians and producers recall their experiences with the legendary singer
There will never be another Ella Fitzgerald.
The iconic jazz singer, often dubbed the First Lady of Song, was known for her quick-witted improvisation skills, her numerous collaborations with jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and of course, her powerfully mellifluous voice — all combining to make her one of the most popular and successful jazz musicians of all time.
Fitzgerald was often touted the highest-paid singer in music, and a true trail blazer for women in music. And as such, she inspired countless others to pursue their own dreams.
The singer passed away in 1996 at age 79, but April 25, 2017 marks what would be the Queen of Jazz's 100th birthday. CBC's Hot Air invited a host of Vancouver jazz musicians ro reflect on the life of the musician, and the role she played in their lives.
Vancouver jazz cornerstone Jennifer Scott was just 18 years old when Ella Fitzgerald was putting on a five-night series of shows at the International Plaza Hotel in North Vancouver.
"I used to go over after work every single day she was there," said Scott, who was personally introduced to Fitzgerald by a bass player that noticed she had attended all the shows.
"I was clearly very young, but I remember saying to her, Miss Fitzgerald, I'm your biggest fan! I'm going to become a jazz singer!"
"And she said, I'll bet you are!" Scott recalled. "It was a really important moment in my development ... she's important to me for so many reasons — for the fact that she's not a beauty queen, for the fact that she was the queen of vocal improv," said Scott, who models much of her music after Fitzgerald's.
"I don't if I would have become a jazz singer without her presence."
Fitzgerald toured through B.C. on several occasions — including a show at the Cave Supper Club in 1968.
So, when Vancouver radio music producer and trumpeter George Laverock heard Fitzgerald would be playing a show at the most renowned jazz venue in the city, he jumped at the opportunity to broadcast the performance on the local CBC airwaves.
The only problem: he was also a backup trumpeter for the venue's in-house Cave Band — meaning he would also be performing onstage with the jazz great.
"It was a very odd situation for me to be playing in the band and also being the producer of the broadcast," he said.
But Laverock was able to pull it off, and the recording has since been distributed as one of Fitzgerald's many live albums.
"It was great fun, and it was great to be hanging around with Ella — she's such an important pioneer," he said. "She was, in many ways, kind of childlike. She had a very high speaking voice and sounded like a young girl — even though she wasn't."
Laverock recalls her scatting prowess from the show exemplified her ability to go toe-to-toe with trumpet players onstage.
"She was fantastic at that — and hardly anyone has ever been better."
With files from CBC's Hot Air