Apologies to James Brown, but Ella Fitzgerald, who would have turned 100 on April 25, was the hardest working singer in show business. Fiercely career focused from her teens through her 70s, she maintained an exhausting tour schedule and amassed a discography than runs to more than four-dozen studio releases, hundreds of singles and one of jazz’s widest, richest arrays of live albums. Never, even long past reaching the pinnacle, did she cease honing her preternatural technical, interpretive and improvisational skills. It is an extraordinary legacy—one that has affected pretty much every jazz singer who’s followed in her wake and still resonates strongly among today’s foremost practitioners.
Concisely summing up her influence, Kurt Elling considers her “one of the main ingredients. Her sense of swing, of timing and phrasing, is exemplary.”