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Random Jukebox: Ella Fitzgerald’s One Note Samba brings scat into ’69

Well, this was a find an a half. A few months back, I was looking for scat examples to share with a young friend, and stumbled upon the most exquisite black and white video of Ella Fitzgerald scatting on stage in 1969. I remember waiting for a British Airways flight from Moscow to London when I heard the news of her death in June 1996, so to celebrate one extraordinary performer here’s Ella…

You really should see this: Ella Fitzgerald scatting on stage at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival on June 22, 1969, the day her showbiz pal Judy Garland went to that great Yellow Brick Road in the sky and four days before I danced myself out of the womb. She’s accompanied by the Tommy Flanagan Trio—Ed Thigpen on drums, Frank de la Rosa on bass, and Tommy Flanagan on piano.

Following a wild interpretation of The Beatles’ Hey Jude, Antônio Carlos Jobim’s One Note Samba gives Ella a chance to perform her legendary vocal gymnastics. A veritable tour de force performance, before she even opened her mouth to sing, Ella demonstrates how she was so supremely confident in communicating with her audience and pianist.

Then comes an insanely intricate and what’s more musical scat solo. I’d never seen anyone use their voice in such a creative way. Here was a strong female taking control on stage, slaying it vocally and having a blast doing it. Entertaining and breathlessly funny, she cues in the band all whilst delivering this amazing improvisation.

I showed it a big-lunged chum and he liked it so much that he was scatting all week. His excitement for this jazz legend affected me too. Being a journalist I love nothing more than to inform and educate, as well as just opine from my ivory tower. I wanted every kid to see Ella scat and I figured that most probably hadn’t had the time or opportunity to seek something like that out. I wanted to share the old Sinatra and swing tunes that my gran liked too.

Fortunately, the friend had a curious ear and lapped up every ounce of scat.

You’re welcome.

Steve Pafford

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