The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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acceptance among musicians and jazz fans. It was in 1935 too that Ella Fitzgerald, then a 17-year-old singer with Chick Webb's band, embarked on her maiden voyage as a recording artist.
These were the two voices of the 1930s: Billie, the rugged and rasping "Lady Day", whose tone and Armstrong-influenced phrasing made even the tenderest love song sound caustic and thankless, whose personal bitterness toward the world led to narcotics, a ruined career and a gradually deteriorating voice of which a few magnificent shreds still remained in 1957; and Ella, who was the voice of light as Billie was that of darkness, swinging in insouciant and'bell-clear tones an endless parade of trivial songs, dominating and conquering the material in a gaily rhythmic challenge. The consistency of honey was as com­patible with Ella's voice as was the aroma of vinegar with Billie's. Both were peerless artists; neither was a blues singer, though occasionally both tried their hand (Billie's Fine and Mellow, Ella's Gulf Coast Blues and Ella Hums the Blues); both were throat and shoulders above the conventional treatments applied to the same popular songs of the day by singers with the swing bands of Benny Goodman, the Dorseys and Bob Crosby. EUa, in sharp contrast with Billie, expanded in scope through the years, took up the use wordless vocalese to fit the bop craze when it arrived, broadened her vocal range to a full two octaves and finally, in 1956, began to find her material in superior show tunes and other songs congruent with her personality.
Another school of jazz singers began in 1941, the year Anita OTDay joined the Gene Krupa band. Though she had more in common with Lady Day than with Ella, Anita's voice had a lighter texture, appended a trailer-like tail to long-held notes, and found a way of bending an occasional tone in such a manner that the combined effect was astringently rhythmic and iinmistakably jazz. The OTDay style was popularized still further by June Christy in her alliance with the Kenton orchestra in 1945. A similar style was attempted, with occasional success, by Chris Connor, heard as a Kenton vocalist in 1953.
The voice of the new jazz era, a contribution that matched the instrumental discoveries of Gillespie and Parker, was Sarah