Through Ella's Eyes

March 2012

Nearly 1600 people joined us as we paid homage to the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, in honor of what would have been her 95th birthday. The program included Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s full orchestra (55 pieces) and featured four of Chicago’s most celebrated vocalists, Dee Alexander, Jackie Allen, Bobbi Wilsyn, and Joan Collaso, giving tribute to the legacy that is Ella Fitzgerald. all in the acoustically perfect setting of the Auditorium Theatre. Through creative use of modern video and audio technology, Ella herself was present and swingin’ live with Orbert and the orchestra! Longtime Chicago newscaster, Merri Dee, presided as mistress of ceremonies.

“Ella continues to deserve recognition,” states CJP Artistic Director and Emmy Award winning composer, Orbert Davis. “She’s one of the few singers who, along with instrumentalists, transformed the link between swing and bebop. Ella was swing. Ella was bebop. Ella is also timeless. As I was arranging the music for this concert, I didn’t feel I was reaching to the past. Ella’s ideas, the melodies, the shear breadth of her expression, still sounds as if it is new.”

In true CJP fashion, performance and education go hand in hand. In preparing for this concert, we included Ella Fitzgerald in our spring Jazz Alive curriculum. Listening to Ella recordings, learning about her life, adding specific and relevant vocabulary words and history content, and yes, of course, doing a little scatting!! Thank you to the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation and their generosity for making this possible.


The Chicago Tribune (April 01, 2012)
“Davis' splendid orchestra never sounded better, nor more beautifully balanced. It captured — and expanded upon — the sometimes lush, sometimes glittering instrumental colors of the "Songbook" albums Fitzgerald famously recorded in the 1950s and '60s, no small feat.”-Howard Reich

Chicago Jazz Magazine (2012)
“Davis used the unique ensemble to wonderful effect with his dynamic compositions...then orchestrated a magical experience as the conclusion for the first act. [...] All in all, a wonderful evening, a wonderful musical bow to true jazz royalty.”