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“100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella!” Reviewed

Multi-artist concert pays tribute to legendary singer

The Count Basie Orchestra performs at "100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella!"
David Alan Grier speaks about Ella Fitzgerald at "100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella!"
Lizz Wright performs "Love You Madly" at "100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella!"
Kevin Spacey introduces Cassandra Wilson at "100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella!" on Oct. 22, 2016

It’s one of those random show-biz moments that history tells us had to happen just the way it did: Ella Fitzgerald was a shy 17-year-old on Nov. 21, 1934, when she was called upon to prove herself on Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. Looking out nervously at the crowd, she decided not to dance, as she had planned, but to sing instead. After a tentative start, she soon owned the audience. A year later she was fronting Chick Webb’s band. Now her face adorns a United States postage stamp.

The only dancing that took place at “100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella!,” the multi-artist tribute concert held at the Harlem landmark on Oct. 22, was done by the actor Kevin Spacey, here to represent Frank Sinatra, with whom Fitzgerald recorded numerous memorable sides. Following an inspired duet with the outstanding young singer Andra Day on “The Lady Is a Tramp,” Spacey-a formidable vocalist-launched into the standard “Without a Song.” So stoked was he by the Nelson Riddle arrangement being turned out by the still-in-business Count Basie Orchestra (now under the direction of trumpeter Scotty Barnhart), he sashayed across the stage spontaneously.

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