The Holllwood Bowl kicked off their summer jazz series with style and panache with To Ella With Love, a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, “the First Lady of Song. Saluting her swinging scat and timeless classics, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra kicked off the evening with rousing renditions of George and For All We Know.
Next up was the wonderful Carmen Bradford with Ella’s composition Rough Ridin’ followed by Daydream, and I Love Being Here With You. Bradford who knew Ella told a personal story about finding one of her albums in a CD player at Fitzgerald’s Beverly Hills home shortly after the iconic singer’s death in 1996, “She was listening to my music,” Bradford said. I’ll never forget that.
After the Intermission, The Count Bassie Orchestra took over the stage with Tavis Smiley acting as host for the second half Tavis described the idea for the evening as a loose re-creation of the swinging 1963 album “Ella and Basie!”. The host also told an interesting story about how Ella began her singing career. She originally wanted to be a dancer, and earned the opportunity to appear Appollo Theater’s Amateur Nights. While waiting to go on she saw a the local dancing duo and became intimidated thinking that she couldn’t beat them so at the last minute, she decided to sing instead of dance, she won the contest with a first prize of $25.00, and as they say the rest is history.
Three time Grammy award winner DeeDee Bridgewater took the audience down memory lane with her version of Ella’s scatting style on Honeysuckle Rose, while the Basie Orchestra played the songs hard bop rhythms.
Las Vegas Cabaret singer, Clint Holms joined Dee Dee for a duet on There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for NY while Bridgewater floated a melodic voice over Holms, singing “I Love You Porgy.
Patty Austin brought a sensitive and sensual voice to Satin Doll and she obviously enjoyed the playful lyrics to “A-Tisket A-Tasket that Ella helped adapt to turn the children’s favorite nursery rhyme into her first hit single.
The surprise of the evening was Yuna a young pop singer from Malaysia who made a wonderful statement about the internationality of Ella’s music, telling the audience that she grew up in Malaysia loving the iconic singer’s cads. She also made a lovely bridge between the established jazz singers, and young people who for the most part listen to pop.
The closing encore brought all the singers back for a great fab version of How High The Moon.