The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Verve Label Group and UMe are pleased to announce some of the major initiatives confirmed as part of this year’s Ella 100 centennial celebration honoring one of the most beloved and influential vocalists of all time, Ella Fitzgerald.
Throughout 2017 to April 2018, the 100th anniversary of Fitzgerald’s birthday (April 25, 1917) will be celebrated across the world with prestigious exhibits, a trove of new music releases and myriad independent tributes and concerts.
Fitzgerald’s remarkable career and extraordinary legacy will be the focus of several exhibitions and events at institutions throughout the United States. In Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which since 1997 has housed memorabilia of Fitzgerald’s demonstrating the scope of her achievements and character, will open a new display titled First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at 100 on April 1st, kicking off Jazz Appreciation Month. The year-long exhibit will feature awards, letters, sheet music and costumes from Fitzgerald’s archives as well as videos of her performances. The Library of Congress, home to the Ella Fitzgerald Collection, an archive that consists of Fitzgerald’s entire music library and thousands of scores, parts, lyric sheets, and arrangements of works performed and/or recorded by Fitzgerald, will celebrate Lady Ella with a concert by award-winning singer Dianne Reeves on March 31. On the day of her centennial, noted jazz historian and Senior Music Specialist Larry Appelbaum will lead a multi-media homage to the beloved singer.
The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles will celebrate the life, music and charitable legacy of the 13-time GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, with the opening of a new exhibit titled Ella at 100: Celebrating the Artistry of Ella Fitzgerald. Opening on what would have been Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday, April 25, 2017, the all-encompassing exhibit will commemorate the late icon with rare recordings, photos, personal telegram correspondences, wardrobe pieces such as her well-known Don Loper beaded gown and her GRAMMY Awards, all on loan from the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. Fitzgerald holds the distinction of being the first African-American to win a GRAMMY Award: In 1958 at the inaugural ceremony, she won two awards for her vocal performances on Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Song Book and Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Song Book. Ella at 100: Celebrating the Artistry of Ella Fitzgerald will be on display in the GRAMMY Museum’s Mike Curb Gallery on the fourth floor through fall 2017.
Fitzgerald’s Song Book recordings, widely considered her greatest achievement and a cornerstone of 20th century recorded popular music, are the focal point for the Great American Songbook Foundation’s recently opened exhibit, Ella Sings The Songbook. Located in the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Ind., the exhibit, which runs until October, shines a spotlight on the classic recordings Fitzgerald made with Norman Granz at Verve between 1956 and 1964. Historic photos, sheet music, magazines and other artifacts, culled from both the foundation’s own archives and on loan from the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, tell the story of these career-changing albums. The exhibit also includes an interactive multimedia station with video of live international performances and more than 30 audio recordings. In conjunction with the standing exhibit, the foundation has also assembled a traveling display with educational materials that will be available on loan to local schools and community groups. For more information, contact the foundation at (317) 844-2251 or info@TheSongbook.org.
Verve and UMe will celebrate Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial with a slate of exciting releases throughout the year and into 2018. On April 21, 100 of her most popular songs will be released as a new 4CD box set titled 100 Songs For A Centennial. The collection, which will also be available digitally, spans Fitzgerald’s Decca and Verve years, beginning with her earliest recordings with Chick Webb and his orchestra in 1936 and culminating with the GRAMMY® Award-winning “Mack The Knife,” her famous live recording from 1960’s Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife. Some of the many highlights include “Summertime,” “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Pre-order 100 Songs For A Centennial here.
Also on April 21, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books, a collaboration with Nelson Riddle that is highly regarded as the pinnacle of her legendary Song Book series, will be released as a limited edition 6LP vinyl box set. A replica of the rare 5LP set originally released in 1959, the Ella 100 edition recreates for the first time since its initial release the original stereo box set on vinyl, the originally included five lithographs by French impressionist painter Bernard Buffet, as well as the hardcover book, Words And Music, which for this set has been updated with additional historical information and an afterword by noted author David Ritz. The 2017 collection was newly mastered by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios in Hollywood where the album was originally recorded in 1959 under the supervision of Verve Records founder Norman Granz. A sixth LP enlarges the original 10-inch instrumental EP with orchestra tracks on Side One and additional material from the sessions on Side Two. One of the bonus tracks, a mono alternate take of “Oh, Lady Be Good!,” is on vinyl for the first time. The box set is available exclusively at UDiscover. View the behind-the-scenes album trailer here.
Later in the year, all of Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s beloved duets, combining for the first time their Decca singles with three ageless Verve albums and bonus tracks, will be released as a 4CD/digital set titled Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Ella & Louis Duets. Further on, Verve will release a new album featuring Fitzgerald’s classic vocal recordings accompanied by new orchestral arrangements by the London Symphony Orchestra.
In an effort to present Fitzgerald’s music in the best possible fidelity, the eight classic albums that make up the Ella Fitzgerald Song Books were made available on February 17 in a variety of high-resolution audio formats. The albums, which include Fitzgerald interpreting work by the most beloved composers of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood – Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer and Rodgers & Hart – are available individually and for the first time as a hi-res audio bundle as Ella Fitzgerald: The Complete Original Song Books. Each album’s cover art, inconsistent in all previous digital releases, has been restored to the original design and the albums are in the original sequence. A showcase for Fitzgerald’s underappreciated talents as well as a celebration of America’s great composers, the Song Book series debuted in 1956 with Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book and launched Verve Records.
Some of Fitzgerald’s most cherished earliest recording will be brought into the digital age when the 300 singles she recorded for Decca from 1935-1955, nearly three-quarters of which never appeared on an album, will be made available digitally in the form they were released (A side/B side) for the first time on March 24. With more than half the tracks making their digital debut, the mammoth collection will be divided into four volumes that will encapsulate Fitzgerald’s two-decade-long Decca career. Vol. 1, 1935-1939 includes songs teenaged Ella recorded as the featured singer fronting the world-renowned Chick Webb Orchestra while Vol. 2, 1939-1941 features 50 tracks credited to Ella and Her Famous Orchestra, when she took over the Chick Webb Orchestra following Webb’s untimely death at age 30. Vol. 3 1942-1949 covers the 1940s, when Fitzgerald formally became a Decca solo artist in her mid-twenties and Vol. 4 1950-1955 chronicles the first half of the 1950s before Fitzgerald’s manager Norman Granz created Verve Records and brought her on board.
Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial will be celebrated across the globe at a host of official and unofficial tributes and concerts. Some of the key events include the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.‘s two-night concert March 24-25 featuring acclaimed singers Sy Smith, Capathia Jenkins, and Montego Glover performing Fitzgerald’s songs with the NSO Pops. In New York City, Lincoln Center and the Apollo Theater, where Fitzgerald made her stage debut and won Amateur Night as a teenager in 1934, will each honor Fitzgerald with multiple nights of exciting programming. A continually updated list of events can be found at EllaFitzgeraldFoundation.org.
The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation was created and funded in 1993 by Ella Fitzgerald in order to fulfill her desires to use the fruits of her success to help people of all races, cultures and beliefs. Fitzgerald hoped to make their lives more rewarding, and she wanted to foster a love of reading, as well as a love of music. In addition, she hoped to provide assistance to the at-risk and disadvantaged members of our communities – assistance that would enable them to achieve a better quality of life. The Board of Directors of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation seeks to continue Ella Fitzgerald’s goals by making charitable grants serving four major areas of interest: Creating educational and other opportunities for children; fostering a love and knowledge of music; including assistance to students of music the provision of health care; food, shelter and counseling to those in need and specific areas of medical care and research with an emphasis on Diabetes, vision problems and heart disease.