Jazz Vocals

New Tracks, Classic Ella

07 JUN 07 ANNE FARNSWORTH

Love Letters From Ella is a surprise gift of never-released cuts recorded over the course of her career. It features Ella paired with some of her favorite collaborators, including Count Basie and his Orchestra, Joe Pass, Andre Previn and The London Symphony Orchestra.

My favorite professor was a successful writer and a huge jazz fan. A native of Grand Rapids, the highlight of his teen years in the '30s was a big band's arrival to play at the dance hall. But his gang couldn't always afford the hand stamp required for entry. So they'd pool their resources to get one guy stamped. Using a freshly peeled boiled egg, they'd transfer the stamp from hand to hand. Sometimes not everyone got in, as the ink would grow fainter with each pressing or the egg would tear. Odd men out moved to plan B - hanging around the musicians' entrance hoping one of them would take pity and let them carry their instrument inside.

"One night we're out back," he said, "and Chick Webb's musicians are climbing off the bus. But they're ignoring us, playing with us. Then this young girl steps down. We were amazed! She looks our age and she's in a professional orchestra! We were so impressed we just stared as she walked by. She must have read our minds, because she smiled and turned to the musicians behind her, saying, 'Let these boys in, will you?' And that's the first time I heard Ella Fitzgerald, the nicest girl you could ever meet."

Ella would be 90 now, and the nicest girl you could ever meet is still letting us in.