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Ella 101: Perdido (Day 5 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.

An epic, eight-and-a-half-minute recording from a September 18, 1949 date with Jazz at the Philharmonic, a long-running concert series produced by Norman Granz, the maestro behind Ella's peak years at Verve Records.

Ella holds her own here with an all-star band of absolute masters--a rhythm section of Hank Jones on piano, Ray Brown on bass, and Buddy Rich on drums, and a horn section with Roy Eldridge on Trumpet, Tommy Turk on trombone, Lester Young AND Flip Philips on tenor, and the man himself, Charlie Parker on alto.

They play to a wildly enthusiastic house, with Bird shredding it to pieces and Turk following up. Ella doesn't even enter until the halfway point, but when she does, she's bubbly and effortless, improvising an entirely new set of lyrics and ripping through a staggeringly inventive chorus of bebop scat as quality as any of the instrumental solos surrounding her. Flip comes in after her and shuts it down. It's an insane listen, with the raucous crowd sounding like they might even riot at points.

Did I mention this was at Carnegie Hall? Take a moment and imagine all that.

This is an excellent recording to illustrate Ella's place in jazz history. During the span of her career, she worked with nearly every other important name in the genre at some point, plus many more outside of jazz, and earned the respect of all. Listening to her fearlessly storm a stage with Bird and Buddy wailing their hardest and steal the spotlight, it's clear she was as fine a talent as ever existed.

This is also a special one for me. I discovered Ella in my preteens, and because of all the legends she worked with and all the great songwriters whose work she performed, her music led me to pretty much the rest of the jazz universe. When I was twelve years old, this song was the first time I heard all of the musicians playing here, and I was floored by Charlie Parker. I sought out more of his work, and I have Ella to thank for that.

And to think this recording wasn't released until 1993.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOqra4Hbdtk

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, formerly served as jazz writer for both the Dayton Daily News and Dayton City Paper, has booked jazz musicians for area venues such as Pacchia, and performs regularly around the region as a jazz vocalist with musical partner Randy Villars.