April 25th Centennial of Ella Fitzgerald

ella-fitzgerald

Today marks the centennial of American jazz singer, Miss Ella Jane Fitzgerald. She was born on April 25th, 1917 and passed away June 15th, 1996 due to complications from diabetes.

Ella Fitzgerald was discovered during an amateur night at the Apollo theater in Harlem. She was often referred to as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz” and “Lady Ella”. Her first big hit, “A Tisket, A Tasket” was released in 1938, which was written by both Ella and Chick Webb. She had a remarkable talent for singing and was most noted for her pure tone, improvisational ability and scat singing.

Norman Granz, a famous jazz impresario, worked with Ella during her career and built up the record label Verve Records based partially on her vocal talents. It was with Verve that Ella wrote many of her best works including her interpretation of The Great American Songbook.

Ella also appeared in movies and as a guest on popular television shows. She worked with a number of other Jazz artists including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. One notable album, Porgy and Bess, was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special award that honors recordings with “qualitative or historical significance”. It was considered to be among the most successful jazz vocal versions and would be released to coincide with the movie version.

After a long and successful career, which included 13 Grammy nominations and countless Downbeat Jazz Awards, Ella Fitzgerald would play her final concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991.

In addition to her many achievements, Ella assigned all of her royalties to the Charitable Foundation that bears her name. So every time you purchase a new recording of Ella’s, the royalty is donated in order to continue her charitable legacy. The centennial begins April 25th, 2017 and will conclude April 25th, 2018.

To commemorate Ella’s 100th birthday, the Smithsonian Museum opened “First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at 100.”, and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has created a similar tribute. In addition, much of her body of work will see re-releases all year long.

Looking for albums from Ella Fitzgerald’s discography? Check out our shop!

Album Review: “Become Ocean” by John Luther Adams

Become Ocean is a moving work, to say the least. My first listen left me reeling in such a way that I immediately started over from the beginning. Mississippi-born and Alaska-based John Luther Adams won the 2014 Pulitzer for this piece, and it’s imminently clear he deserved the award.

John Luther Adams - Become OceanJohn Luther Adams (not to be confused with California’s John Adams, also nominated for a Pulitzer this year) has the heart of an ambient musician, the hands of a skilled composer and the spirit of the wild. If enjoyed without distraction, you can in fact, “become ocean.”

I first learned of Become Ocean (as many of my friends did) via this excellent episode of Radiolab, excerpting the equally impressive podcast Meet the Composer. Snippets featured in these shows drew me in, but none of that prepared me for how truly impressive as a whole Become Ocean is.

Alex Ross, a contributor to The New Yorker, shared this rough illustration of Adam’s form in an addendum to his review of the piece. The power behind Become Ocean emanates from the overlapping swells of an orchestra distinctly segmented. The result is an ever changing tide, the full ensemble hitting simultaneous crescendos thrice. Become Ocean strikes its most intense moments around the half-way mark; after that point, the piece is performed in reverse. Among many things, Become Ocean is a palindrome.

Alex Ross' diagram of Become Ocean.
Alex Ross’ rough diagram of Become Ocean.

In all honesty, Become Ocean feels like it shouldn’t be possible. At the very least, it’s hard to believe that it was not assembled in post production. Rather, John Luther Adams has created a solid 42-minute composition recorded with a real-life orchestra in full surround sound. Harps in the left ear swell into similar arpeggios on piano dead center, then strings in the right ear. At times, it’s easy to forget that the lulls in each wave are produced by real people, and not computer-built improvisations.

I can only imagine what it felt like to be John Luther Adams, experiencing his work in the flesh for the first time. After a year in composition, Adams did not hear Become Ocean until its third presentation: a packed house at Carnegie Hall. Become Ocean is a must-listen, if only to experience the subtlety and power a master of modern composition such as John Luther Adams can create.

In Adams’ own words:

Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.

Check out Become Ocean for yourself on Murfie. While you’re at it, make sure to hear the full story via Radiolab.


John Kruse
@mamtweet

John Praw Kruse is an Operations Manager, and Product Manager for the Murfie Vinyl Service. In his free time, John makes music, including scores for indie films and various shorts. He is the founder of Mine All Mine Records and the Lost City Music Festival. John devours new music.


This Week in Music History (February 12th-18th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

2/12- On this day in 1964, The Beatles arrived in New York City for two performances at Carnegie Hall. Tickets were in such high demand that show organizers hastily created last-minute seating around the stage.

2/13- On this day in 1960, Frank Sinatra launched his own record label, Reprise Records, in an attempt to gain more artistic freedom for his work. The label earned Sinatra the nickname “Chairman of the Board”, and would later sign acts including Jimi Hendrix and The Beach Boys.

2/14- On this (Valentine’s!) day in 1998, Celine Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On” set a new record for the highest number of radio plays in the United States after it was played 116 million times in one week.

2/15- On this day in 1962, Ray Charles recorded “I Can’t Stop Loving You” at United Studios in Hollywood, California. The song would go on to top the charts in both the US and the UK and remain there for 14 weeks.

2/16- On this day in 1985, Bruce Springsteen went to No. 1 on the UK album chart with Born to Run, his first UK No. 1 album. The album was the best-selling album of 1985 in the United States and The Boss’s all-time best-selling album.

2/17- On this day in 2005, a 1965 Fender Stratocaster guitar that had belonged to Jimi Hendrix was sold for £100,000 at an auction in London. Other Hendrix memorabilia, including a poem and a signed copy of “Hey Joe”, were auctioned as well.

2/18- On this day in 1990, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance onstage when he joined his band to accept the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. The ceremony was held at the Dominion Theatre in London.

Check out these albums and other music history gems in our CD marketplace! Stream and download your favorites!