Ellabration! 100 Years of Ella Fitzgerald featuring the Brad Williams Trio, Sheila Jordan, Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee, Spider Saloff and Paul Marinaro
So sweet is Ella Fitzgerald’s legacy, so joyously swinging her sound, you don’t actually need to hear it to think happy thoughts. All you need to do is say her name. But when five stylish singers get together for a centennial celebration of the First Lady of Song, as will happen tonight, well, take care not to strain your smiling muscle.
Sheila Jordan is not usually thought of as an Ella-ite. Her musical approach is more impressionistic, her involvement in the lyrics deeper. She is also more of a free spirit, having sung with such “outside” artists as Carla Bley and Roswell Rudd. But like Fitzgerald, Jordan is a bebopper at heart: Charlie Parker’s solos are in her DNA. And like Ella, she spreads joy with everything she does.
Also participating in the “Ellabration,” fittingly enough, are three longtime Windy City favorites who have performed together as the Three Ellas. Dee Alexander is a remarkably wide-ranging artist known not only for her luminous balladry (as captured on her albums Songs My Mother Loves and Wild is the Wind), but also her free jazz forays and tributes to James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. Frieda Lee, frequently featured with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, has charmed audiences with her offerings from the Ella-Sarah-Billie songbook. And Spider Saloff, the city’s cabaret queen, renews the tunes with her humor and theatricality.
The male ringer on the bill is Paul Marinaro, he of the sonorous baritone and throwback skills and praised as, “among the top five male jazz singers active today.” (Scott Yanow). All of tonight’s vocalists are in good hands with Brad Williams, a singer’s pianist who has often accompanied Jordan, bassist Eric Hochberg and drummer Mike Schlick.