Ella Fitzgerald’s Jazz Standards: Top 15 Songs

Introduction

Considered one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time, Ella Fitzgerald left an indelible mark on the music industry with her extraordinary talent, impeccable phrasing, and captivating stage presence. During her illustrious career, Fitzgerald recorded numerous jazz standards that have become beloved classics. In this article, we will explore 15 of Ella Fitzgerald’s most iconic songs, delving into the reasons for their success and their lasting impact on the world of jazz.

Song 1: “Summertime”

“Summertime,” a jazz standard composed by George Gershwin, is a featured track from Ella Fitzgerald’s acclaimed 1957 album “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook.” The song’s success can be attributed to Fitzgerald’s soulful interpretation, her ability to infuse the lyrics with deep emotion, and her vocal improvisations that effortlessly glide above the melody. “Summertime” has had a transformative impact on jazz, as it has been covered by numerous artists, cementing its status as one of Fitzgerald’s most enduring recordings.

The song’s impact lies in its ability to evoke a sense of wistful nostalgia, capturing the essence of warm summer days and the tantalizing promise of freedom. Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Summertime” showcases her remarkable vocal range and control, allowing her to effortlessly soar through the song’s haunting melodies. Her masterful interpretation of the song’s lyrics, combined with her unmistakable tone, cements “Summertime” as a timeless jazz classic that continues to captivate audiences to this day.

Song 2: “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”

“A-Tisket, A-Tasket” is perhaps the song most synonymous with Ella Fitzgerald. This popular nursery rhyme turned jazz standard was recorded by Fitzgerald in 1938 with her band, the Chick Webb Orchestra. The song became an instant hit, topping the charts and catapulting Fitzgerald to stardom. Its success can be attributed to its catchy melody, Fitzgerald’s infectious scatting, and the delightful energy exuded by the entire ensemble.

The impact of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” extends beyond its commercial success. The song marked the beginning of Fitzgerald’s solo career and proved to be a breakthrough moment. Her impeccable delivery, combined with her joyful exuberance and playful improvisations, showcased her incredible talent and solidified her position as one of the premier jazz vocalists of her time. “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” served as a launchpad for Fitzgerald’s career, opening doors to further opportunities and cementing her status as an iconic figure in jazz music.

Song 3: “Someone to Watch over Me”

“Someone to Watch over Me” is a standout track from Fitzgerald’s 1950 album “Ella Fitzgerald Sings Gershwin.” Written by George and Ira Gershwin, the song is a heartfelt and vulnerable ballad that showcases Fitzgerald’s ability to convey deep emotions and connect with her audience on an intimate level. With her unique phrasing and subtle vocal nuances, Fitzgerald creates an atmosphere of longing and desire that lingers long after the song ends.

The song’s success lies in its ability to resonate with listeners on a personal level. The longing for companionship and the desire to find solace in someone else’s presence is a universal theme that transcends time and place. Fitzgerald’s interpretation of “Someone to Watch over Me” captures the essence of this longing, making it a timeless jazz standard that continues to move and connect with audiences to this day.

Song 4: “Mack the Knife”

“Mack the Knife,” originally from the Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill musical “The Threepenny Opera,” became one of Ella Fitzgerald’s signature songs. Her lively rendition of this lively and spirited tune showcases her vocal prowess, scatting abilities, and magnetic stage presence. Fitzgerald’s Grammy Award-winning version of “Mack the Knife” was recorded live at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, further solidifying the song’s popularity.

The impact of “Mack the Knife” lies in its ability to showcase Fitzgerald’s versatility as a performer, seamlessly blending swing, scat, and storytelling. Her ability to effortlessly navigate the song’s complex rhythm and deliver intricate lyrics with perfect timing is a testament to her exceptional talent. “Mack the Knife” became a beloved staple in Fitzgerald’s live performances and remains one of her most celebrated recordings, demonstrating her ability to captivate audiences with her infectious energy and impeccable musicianship.

Song 5: “Cheek to Cheek”

Performed as a duet with Frank Sinatra in her 1958 album “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook,” “Cheek to Cheek” showcases the exceptional vocal chemistry between two legendary figures in the music industry. This romantic ballad exudes elegance, sophistication, and a timeless charm that has made it one of Fitzgerald’s most celebrated recordings.

The success of “Cheek to Cheek” can be attributed to the immense talent and charisma of both Fitzgerald and Sinatra, as well as the timeless beauty of the song itself. Fitzgerald’s velvety smooth voice effortlessly glides above the melody, complementing Sinatra’s rich and resonant tones. Together, they create a musical dialogue that is both enchanting and unforgettable, solidifying “Cheek to Cheek” as a jazz standard cherished by music lovers around the world.

Sources:

– Biography: The Life of Ella Fitzgerald: https://www.biography.com/musician/ella-fitzgerald
– Ella Fitzgerald’s Discography: https://www.ellafitzgerald.com/discography/
– “The Essential Ella Fitzgerald” Album Liner Notes. Verve Records (2007).