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Ella 101: All Of Me (Day 2 of 101)

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

One of Ella Fitzgerald's biggest strengths was her formidable skill with scatting, and so it seems necessary to demonstrate that right out of the gate.

To those who don't understand it, scatting may just sound like formless, random gibberish with no connection to the music happening around it, but it's really just the vocal version of an instrumental solo wherein the singer improvises vocals around the chord structure of the song. In that sense, it's no different from a sax or guitar solo.

This is Ella at her jazzy best, bright and swinging with a giant big band--the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, to be specific--and a crisp, spacious arrangement that leaves lots of room for Ella to glide through numerous scat choruses.

If you've never quite understood scatting, or how improv solos work in general, here's a tip: Once the solo starts, hum the main melody of the song. You'll see that everything happening works perfectly within the music. I chose this song today because it's a simplistic, well known tune that's easy to follow along with in the solo. She does brilliant work here.

This is also an interesting track because the arrangement, and Ella's improv, seem to be heavily inspired by tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet's version recorded in 1951, ten years before this one. I'll post it below Ella's version so you can see for yourself.

It's a classy, joyous affair, with an a cappella opening that shows off the dazzling clarity of Ella's tone, and an absolutely stunning coda where she weaves in and under and around the music in jaw-dropping fashion. This song was 30 years old by the time she recorded it, but you wouldn't know by its freshness here. 



Ella 101 is a daily look at 101 essential recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, who was born 101 years ago this month. Tune in to Equinox, Monday nights from 8 - 11 p.m. on WYSO, to hear Ella and more great jazz with host Duante Beddingfield.

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Duante Beddingfield, a Dayton native, has hosted Equinox since 2018; he now records the show from his home in Michigan, where he works as arts and culture reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Previously, he served as jazz writer for both the Dayton Daily News and Dayton City Paper, booked jazz acts for area venues such as Pacchia and Wholly Grounds, and performed regularly around the region as a jazz vocalist; Beddingfield was the final jazz headliner to play Dayton's legendary Gilly's nightclub.