Los Angeles Music Preview: 100: THE APOLLO THEATER CELEBRATES ELLA’S 100TH BIRTHDAY! (Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood)

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by Tony Frankel on September 17, 2017

in Music,Theater-New York


Ella Fitzgerald’s history with Harlem’s Apollo Theater dates back to the fall of 1934, when she won the opportunity to compete in Amateur Night. The teenager went to the Theater planning to dance, but when the Edwards Sisters closed the main show, Ella changed her mind. She performed her rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy” and the Boswell Sister’s “The Object of My Affection,” winning Amateur Night and making her the first female performer to earn that distinction. Soon after her Amateur Night win, the sixteen-year-old joined the Chick Webb Orchestra and began touring with the group in some of the most famous jazz venues in the city. In 1936, they had their first international recording hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” After Webb’s death in 1939, Fitzgerald assumed leadership of the band for three years before beginning a solo career. Equally at home with scat singing and popular standards, she has long been a favorite of jazz musicians because of her skill in using her voice as if it were an instrument. During her life-long career, she made her mark as one of the greatest scat singers in jazz history.

In honor of her history with the Apollo and her influence on the American music landscape, and in celebration of Ella’s centennial birthday, Patti Austin, who has been wowing audiences since her own childhood debut at the Apollo at the age of four—and who recorded For Ella, an album of Fitzgerald’s standards—will pay tribute to the First Lady of Song with some friends, including David Alan Grier, Monica Mancini, and the amazing singer/songwriter and New Orleans native Ledisi. There will also be guest appearances, including pianist Shelly Berg, bassist Nathan East, jazz guitarist Brian Nova, and drummer Gregg Field, the producer of this event who, at the age of 24, toured as the drummer for Ella.

Presented in association with The Apollo Theater, this all-star evening, 100: The Apollo Theater Celebrates Ella’s 100th Birthday!, takes place one night only on Sunday, September 24, 2017 at the newly revamped Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood, one of L.A.’s greatest performing locales. I recently reviewed a celebration of Ella and Dizzy at the Hollywood Bowl across the 101 freeway, but that has 18,000 seats. The Ford, which also serves food and has picnic areas, seats just 1,200—you won’t find a cooler venue, indoors or out (be prepared for cooler nights).

While there will be a few stories sprinkled in throughout the evening, it’s all about the songs. “Ella Fitzgerald is probably the single most important voice in American history,” said recording artist Miles Mosley in a feature for Billboard. “If you’re going to start with any song before 1970, her version is the one you start from. That’s the ground floor. That is the most representative version of what the composer themselves wished their songs would sound like.”

100: The Apollo Theater Celebrates Ella’s 100th Birthday!
Ford Amphitheater
produced in collaboration with Gregg Field
Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd East in Hollywood
Sunday, September 24, 2017 at 8:00pm
for tickets, call 323.461.3673 or visit Ford Theatres

photo of Ella Fitzgerald by William P. Gottlieb
(Ira & Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection)
photo of Patti Austin in concert by Shahar Azran
red tint photos of David Alan Grier, Monica Mancini, and Patti Austin
from the Apollo Theater

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