Ella, Ella: A Centennial Celebration of Mama Jazz the latest installment of the Schomburg Center’s annual Women’s Month events. Novella Ford is the manager of public programs at Schomburg. She says it’s all about making sure that people leave informed.
“Whether or not we do that through film screenings or programs like our women’s jazz festival, it is always about learning. It is always about connecting history and the contemporary moments we are in. The Schomburg Center is the perfect place for that because we get to explore all aspects of black culture, and we get to use every medium that is at our fingertips to do so.”
Ford feels that sometimes women are the unsung heroes of jazz music.
“Every year we get a change to explore whether or not it’s a different woman who has performed in jazz and/or just highlighting some of the emerging talent as well as popular talent within the jazz world.”
This year’s festival is spotlighting different aspects of Ella’s career.
“I met her when I was a kid, about twelve years old. My first recollections are seeing her live when I was a kid,” said percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington, one of the festivals many performers. She became the first woman to win a Grammy award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.
“She was really an instrumentalist with her voice. Nobody has surpassed her yet with that unique quality to be really one in the band. She could stand next to Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, anybody, and hold her own.”
Singer Charenee Wade says Ella’s influence has made its way into her music.
“Ella, like Terri was saying earlier is essentially a rhythm singer, a percussionist. She’s swingin’.”
Multi-instrumentalist Casey Benjamin aka stutzmcgee believes Ella had a way of taking on all genres of music.
“Jazz is always moving. And to me Ella, incorporating these classic American songs, the American songbook, is pushing the envelope.”
The Women’s Jazz Festival at the Schomburg Center is presenting tributes to Ella Fitzgerald every Monday for the rest of the March.