WRVR Jazz NY – Ella Fitzgerald

In celebration of International Jazz Day, remembering the contributions of jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald. Ella’s artistry and improvisational skills are amazing, and while she may not have invented scatting, there’s a good reason Ella is usually the first artist who comes to mind when referencing the form.
Throughout my childhood, Ella was everywhere, on T.V. and performing at pop and jazz festivals all over the world. If you are a boomer of a certain age, your parents and grandparents were likely huge fans, so you may have viewed her in the same way as Louie Armstrong, Nat King Cole and other great artists who later in their careers were seen first as entertainers.
Ella’s ability to hold her audience in thrall in no way detracted from her soaring vocal gifts. The story of her breakout performance, performing at the Apollo Theater is well documented, and her 1938 performance of the children’s nursery rhyme A Tisket A Tasket recorded with the Chick Webb Orchestra became a jazz standard.
Here’s a lighthearted performance of the song taken from a scene of the 1942 Abbott and Costello movie Ride ‘Em Cowboy:
Ella’s voice was angelic, pure and clear, and her timing and phrasing were jazz inspired; her delivery often evocative of a trumpet or trombone. In the tradition of other instrumental soloists, Ella expands on her free-form riffing while interweaving samples from other popular songs, snippets of familiar sounds, and even cultural stylings.
Nowhere are her scatting skills and vocal stamina better displayed than in this live performance of How High The Moon. Ella branches off on several bars of Bird’s classic Ornithology, drops in Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking, a short bugle call, a gravelly trombone section, and even a snake charming, far-eastern inspired  change of pace, as she bounces and swings through the entire song.
Unlike other artists whose voices reveal artifacts of strain and aging, cracking or scratchiness, or a lowering register, Ella’s voice maintained a girlish quality and purity of tone her entire life. I have a memory of Ella from the twilight of her career, though I’m not sure if the venue was at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC, the Palace Theater in Stamford, CT or a tribute special to Ella on television, but I do remember she took the stage looking a bit frail and unsteady. However, once the music started she seems to draw energy from the musicians and audience until you could feel the joy of performing flowing through her.
Such is the magic of Jazz, the magic of the jazz artist Ella Fitzgerald, our First Lady Of Song…

Redhead Record Review – Serenade to a Soul Sister

Dedicated to my little soul sister Kim.

Our featured redhead is Rusty Staub, affectionately nicknamed “Le Grande Orange” during his stint with the expansion Montreal Expos. Rusty had a long and illustrious baseball career that spanned 23 seasons and 6 All-Star appearances.

Rusty’s achievements on the field are surpassed by his dedication to others.

On April 4, 1986, Staub established the Rusty Staub Foundation to provide educational scholarships for youth and fight hunger.

In 1985, Staub founded the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, which supports the families of New York City police officers, firefighters, Port Authority police, and emergency medical personnel who were killed in the line of duty. During its first 15 years of existence, the fund raised and distributed $11 million for families of policemen and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Since September 11, 2001, Staub’s organization has received contributions in excess of $112 million, and it has played a vital role in helping many families affected by the attack.


Our featured album is Serenade to a Soul Sister the 1968 Blue Note release by Horace Silver. While the opening track “Psychedelic Sally” is jumping and fun with an interesting bass line, to me it sounds a bit dated, and too similar to other popular jazz and funk compositions from this period. In contrast, the rest of the set is classic Silver with eclectic themes, rhythms and influences.

“Serenade to a Soul Sister” features a lively and thoughtful sax solo by Stanley Turrentine supported by Silver’s signature chorded rhythms.

“Rain Dance” makes use of a Native American inspired theme, much as Silver’s earlier album “The Tokyo Blues” displayed elements of Asian phrasing, while “Jungle Juice” is carried by a bouncing bass line and harmonized horn section.

“Kindred Spirits” follows a more traditional blues structure, at times echoing Coltrane’s “Cousin Mary.”

The final selection “Next Time I Fall in Love” is in the tradition of “Lonely Woman”, minus the melancholy.

If you are a fan of Horace Silver, this album is a must have for your collection.

Track listing
All compositions by Horace Silver.

Psychedelic Sally – 7:14
Serenade to a Soul Sister – 6:19
Rain Dance – 6:21
Jungle Juice – 6:46
Kindred Spirits – 5:55
Next Time I Fall in Love – 5:19


on tracks 1 – 3 (February 23, 1968)

Horace Silver – piano
Charles Tolliver – trumpet
Stanley Turrentine – tenor saxophone
Bob Cranshaw – bass, electric bass (on track 1)
Mickey Roker – drums

on tracks 4 – 6 (March 29, 1968)

Horace Silver – piano
Charles Tolliver – trumpet (exc. track 6)
Bennie Maupin – tenor saxophone (exc. track 6)
John Williams – bass
Billy Cobham – drums

Alfred Lion – production
Rudy Van Gelder – engineering
Reid Miles – design
Billy Cobham (Cover), Francis Wolff (Interior) – photography

Redhead Quickie – Depression Era Series – Pt 4

Several of the poems in The Dream Keeper by Langston Hughes have seasonal themes. Featured on this icy January night is Dreams.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Our featured redhead is Mickey Rooney. Rooney starred in over 300 films, his career reaching all the way back to the silent film era. The 5ft-2in Rooney was quite the ladies’ man, and his Andy Hardy series in the 1930’s marked the period of his greatest popularity.


Our featured song is Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Fats Waller. The song didn’t apply to Rooney who was married eight times, six of those marriages ending in divorce.

No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I’m happy on the shelf

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you
For you, for you, for you

I know for certain
The one I love
I’m through with flirtin’
It’s just you I’m thinkin’ of

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you

Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don’t go nowhere
What do I care

Your kisses
Are worth waitin’ for
Believe me

I don’t stay out late
Got no place to go
I’m home about 8
Just me and my radio

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ all my love for you

I don’t stay out late
Got no place to go
I’m home about 8
Just me and my radio

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you

  • Writer(s): Andy Razaf, Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller, Harry Brooks

Fats Waller

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