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Duante Beddingfield

Host - Equinox

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; Beddingfield and Villars were the final jazz headliners to play Dayton's legendary Gilly's nightclub. A writer by trade, he also has a long history of volunteer and nonprofit work that support the Dayton community.

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.

Easily in my top five Ella Fitzgerald recordings, from a little-heard concert in 1953 Japan with a wildly enthusiastic audience and Ella at the peak of her vocal power.

November 18, 1953, the Nichigeki Theatre in Tokyo. Raymond Tunia on piano, Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, J.C. Heard *killing* it on drums.

This is a great example of how loose, playful, and creative Ella could get when she had an audience and a small combo. Much of her studio material, especially in her peak years, tended more toward adult pop, in the Sinatra/standards vein. She didn't often get to go deep into jazz on her studio albums, but her concerts were a whole different story.

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.

1961, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook. Notable also because it includes the seldom-heard opening stanza. This recording is an excellent example of an Ella song that could've been a whole lot better than the product we got, and a rare example of Ella being against the material she performed.

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.

Ella tackles a bop classic and smooths it out into liquid silk. This sexy take on Dizzy Gillespie's standard, recorded the first weeks of 1961, has Herb Ellis on guitar, Joe Mondragon on bass, Gus Johnson on drums, and Lou Levy doing some very tasty piano work.

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.

A fun little recording from early 1959, originally done for the Gershwin Songbook album but dropped, and released later that year on Get Happy! A bright and brassy Nelson Riddle arrangement finds Ella backed by Riddle's orchestra with Paul Smith on piano, Herb Ellis on guitar, Joe Mondragon on bass, and Bill Richmond on drums. This bouncy little tune used to be a standard but nobody seems to do it anymore. I don't think I've ever heard a version of it that didn't make me smile.

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.

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.

April 11, 1974, Ella's set at Ronnie Scott's legendary jazz club in London's West End is recorded for later release as Ella in London, but the concert is also filmed--a fact I didn't know until today while looking for clips of the audio. I've been listening to this album for twenty years and never knew there was footage.

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.

Ella was always at her finest when in company with Duke Ellington and his orchestra, and this 1957 outing from Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook captures every entity involved at peak form.

Ellington sets the tone with some boozy barroom piano, followed by a weeping, wailing solo by Johnny Hodges on alto and some fiery shouting and moaning from Cat Anderson on trumpet before Ella's entry. Her soulful reading sways perfectly over the dark hues of the band's slow groove.

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.

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.

Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, was born 101 years ago today. Beloved around the world as not just America's foremost jazz vocalist, but perhaps the premier interpreter of The Great American Songbook, Ella won 13 Grammy Awards and has sold over 40 million albums.

Every day for the next 101 days, I'll be sharing a recording from her six-decade career and discussing its context among her catalogue and, occasionally, among music history.

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