Fife Jazz Festival’s salute to the great Ella

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald is one of those artists its almost impossible to celebrate.

Nobody in the history of jazz has ever sounded anything like her.

Seaonaid Aitken stars in an Ella Fitzgerald tribute show (Pic: Iain McLean)

Seaonaid Aitken stars in an Ella Fitzgerald tribute show (Pic: Iain McLean)

Peerless is the right word here. Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum, Frank Sinatra – there’s a long list of extraordinarily original artists across jazz history.

Not surprising really.

It’s much easier to sound like Abba, The Beatles, The Eagles and the other countless pop tribute shows that seem to populate our concerts halls and theatres nowadays.

But when it’s Ella’s centenary year, you can’t ignore it.

You’ve got to try to promote her and everything she stood for.

So what is it about Ella?

First, it’s the unbelievable musical quality to hit every note perfectly, with the right pitch; while inhabiting the lyrics, sounding like she means it, with superbly clear diction; and then really, really, swinging, almost to the point where she doesn’t need the great bands and arrangers she worked with.

Then its the music. Of course, she started with Big Band and bebop.

But it was the American Songbooks that established her as a mainstream great.

Cole Porter, Rodgers&Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, The Gershwins, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer had their songs defined by Ella’s imperious voice.

Who, in the panoply of current singers has the musicianship, the sense of swing, the clarity of diction, the love of the American songbook, and the effervescence, the joie de vivre that it takes to even start to say something about Ella?

We thought about all the singers we know, right across the world. One by one we ruled them out, to be left with a singer who lives on our doorstep.

Raised in Glenrothes and living in Glasgow, Seonaid Aitken epitomises all the qualities that Ella Fitzgerald brought to the world.

How will she do? We’ll find out as she sings the songs Ella made famous for the first time at Rothes Halls – and she’s got The Groove Merchant Jazz Orchestra backing her.

A cracking night in prospect when we celebrate the greatest singer that jazz, and possibly popular music, has ever witnessed – and the greatest jazz singer in Scotland, and possibly way beyond too.

Seonaid sings Ella is at Rothes Halls on Thursday, February 9, as part of Fife Jazz Festival.

The programme includes veterans Blues ‘N’ Trouble at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, on Saturday, while the Story of Swing, at the same venue on Sunday, is already sold out.

Chris Barber is at the Carnegie Hall on February 10 and the Red Stripe Band at the Adam Smith Theatre on the 11th.