Recorded live at the famed Harlem Apollo, ‘ELLA 100’ is an all star tribute to ELLA FITZGERALD and was originally intended to commemorate the First Lady of Song’s centenary, but it’s not quite worked out that way. You see the concert (from which this recording comes) took place in October 2016. Ella was born in 2017 – so the show kind of jumped the gun. I’m guessing the label (Concord Jazz) were aiming for a 2017 release… bob on for the 100th anniversary. However, it’s only just been released – so it’s now 103 years since Ms Fitzgerald was born. No explanation is given. My guess is this (and it’s only a guess). The 2016 Apollo show featured Kevin Spacey (who played Frank Sinatra). In 2017 he fell from grace; so maybe the label execs have been trying to airbrush him out of proceedings (there is certainly no mention of him!). Actually none of that really matters … what’s a year or two here or there when we’re talking about some great music, delivered by major players in tribute to a musical icon.
So what have we got? Well, essentially, a clutch of classic Fitzgerald songs delivered by some big, big names – people like Patti Austin, Andra Day, Ledisi, Lizz Wright, Cassandra Wilson, Monica Mancini and the award-winning a cappella vocal group from Howard University, Afro Blue. Fitting too that proceedings took place at the Apollo, where on November 21st 1934 Ella turned up for the famed talent show. She was intending to dance but was overawed by other dancers on before her, so she decided to sing… thank God she did. That little episode is played out on this album’s first track and from there, it’s classics all the way. What’s not to like about having Lizz Wright singing ‘The Nearness of You’, Cassandra Wilson on ‘Cry Me A River’ or Monica Mancini’s take on ‘Once In A While’. Real highlight though is the closing track – a live 1970 recording of Ella herself singing ‘People’ . It proves if proof was ever needed that she was quite simply ‘The First Lady Of Song’.