Ella Fitzgerald

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress

The immortal Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song, was born a century ago — April 25, 1917 — and there has been no shortage of commemorative celebration. We caught the spirit and asked some of our on-air hosts at WBGO to curate this edition of Take Five. Their enthusiasm compelled us to expand the column to six tracks, spanning the golden era of her roughly five-decade recording career.

Few Really Knew Ella Fitzgerald

Mar 30, 2017
Ang Santos / WBGO

You wouldn’t think a singer who was doing close to 300 shows a year at their peak would be nervous each time the curtains rose. Archivist Tad Hershorn with The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark says that was the case for Ella Fitzgerald.

“She was always nervous before she went on stage as we are about any type of life experience we might even have a certain handle on.  But when that music started, there she was, it was like watching your grandmother turn into Superwoman,” Hershorn said.

Dimitri Louis

A basket. A box. A notebook. A bumper. Every track in this week's Take Five has a title that evokes some material object, for reasons both comic and constructive. Beyond that commonality, there's a staggering range here, with one recording that's almost 80 years old and one or two others that sound like the near future. 

Ang Santos / WBGO

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.

For tens of millions in the Northeast, the name of the hour is “Stella” — as in Winter Storm Stella, the Weather Channel-branded nor'easter now bringing heavy snowfall to a number of cities along the I-95 corridor. I’m among those presently hunkering down (and later, shoveling out), but my first involuntary response was to start humming a familiar melody.

Bob Gore

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. In the spirit of the occasion, it’s worth spotlighting the Women's Jazz Festival at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, which runs through the end of the month.

The kickoff event in the series, which took place on Monday night, was organized and anchored by harpist Brandee Younger, a leading voice on her instrument.