Transcript:

Speaker I think the phone is off in here. OK.

Speaker Any time you just look at Kevin.

Speaker Describe for me your first experience hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing. You can describe the kind of mood the scene was happening.

Speaker The first time I heard Ella Fitzgerald was when I came. Through a record shop, they used to go to one way home from school through high school, and I walked in. They had one of our records on those days was 78. And I stopped calling my tracks and I didn't know it was of course, I never heard it before. And I inquired of student. Who it was, and they told me I didn't know the name of the band, but from that day on I knew she was my favorite singer. I just knew that I didn't think there was anyone that could sing any better than I heard her sing. Then it was just that much of a magnet to me. And I used to go in regularly after school in the act. Once they say, Well, I know what you want to hear. They pull out different records, rosenblad them from.

Speaker You remember the you remember when you remember the song shows probably this song that I remember hearing.

Speaker I think was too scared to ask you.

Speaker Is most often known for being written about endlessly about her ability to scat. Can you tell me tell me a little bit about the improv sessions at the end of the Jay ATP Jazz at the Philharmonic?

Speaker I know that those were really incredible moments in her career. Talk to me a bit about scatting for Ella. But that was.

Speaker Most Gatting came into the repertoire of J. T.P when we were told we would do all of the horn segments and if there was a larger group one, we'd do that segment. I took my trio group and at the end we'd have a finale and Norman would have the horns all come back on stage and they'd all take their choruses of whatever tune we were playing at the end. And of course, Alan got into it and she I think the means to him that she was known for doing scat with jazz well was pretty low. And the horns would always complain. And she didn't because I remember the. Phillip and Ryan, various people saying, you know, when she gets through this moment, nothing is left for us to play. She'd emulate the instruments that she heard and she would answer them accordingly what they played.

Speaker Leads right into my next question. You said you prefer to stay away from accompanying vocalists.

Speaker He talked about that in your biography as well as the oral history. Sorry. Hold on. I know there's this cut, this goofy.

Speaker Yes. You said that you in general prefer to stay away from accompanying vocalists.

Speaker That's not your favorite activity in the world. How was Ella special? What was it about her that was a perhaps more like an instrument?

Speaker Well, accompanying angle is not like. To me, it was not really a company. The singer was in points. It was a company and a real instrument, not just a vocalist who was trying to sound like an instrument. She had a facility with not just with the intonation and not just with the particular notes that she chose, but where she put them and how she scattered. In other words, a lot of vocal strides getting. It really meant nothing. But anyway, it was like playing for a horn. It was not at all like backing vocals.

Speaker It was like trying to find the right setting to play this kind of instrument that was out front.

Speaker Is there a door right there, Matt?

Speaker Yes. Is there a door to go around here? Doug maybe downstairs. OK. OK. You ready? We're on.

Speaker Did I keep track of her standing in the polls? Did she was she awards conscious? Was she competitive?

Speaker No doubt about it was definitely competitive. She was aware of people who won awards for this, that and the other. I don't think in any way, in an envious way, I think in a competitive way, because she was certain people achieved. Listen to. I'm sure in the field of vocalists. And she'd get on the bus or walk in the dressing to say, you know, so-and-so won this this this year. And it wasn't said with envy many times. It was said with delight.

Speaker Mm hmm. Did you catch the beginning of the McCleery? Because my yes. OK.

Speaker You said that L.A. could handle a lot of changing on stage, except for one thing. Tempo changes, timing, timing was key. Can you describe why? And if you have any examples that you can share with us at times? I know that there's isn't a lot of talk of shooting raids back to Ray Brown that he deserves.

Speaker Maybe if you have any anecdotes around that, we'd love to hear.

Speaker I knew the temple's that she wanted to sing each particular song. Because I think she had certain things she wanted to say within that song that she only say at a certain tempo. Let's say I looked at it and if we rushed her in any way, we could tell that she was being pressured and she would react.

Speaker Could you know, she's always had a handkerchief in my hand and any time. And sometimes you just swing your hand in time and you're frustrated you would come down in a sort of rabid movement, you know, put down. So we tried not to intervene on any of the temblors that she had set. And we tried to give her the exact temblors that she wanted. You know, the years when I. Started playing for various vocalists that I recorded with I used to hear all the stories about how hard it was to play for a vocalist. Without it, it wasn't hard to play for because she knew exactly the exact temperament she wanted on each song. She knew the temperament, temperament. She knew the temperature. She knows the exact feel she wanted to have on that song. She did imparted to the rhythm section.

Speaker Nickname for was Lady Time. Both of you.

Speaker Perfect tan. She had perfect time. She had. So all this time, she could pick up a son at any juncture.

Speaker I know previous times I said in a book that I've written on the buses when we were travelling. She would make Rubiales, get his guitar and maybe get his base and they'd be jammed in the alley or the bus out was running and she said scene.

Speaker And before, you know, arroyos would have his horn, you know, maybe slip going at his own and give they a whole session going on the bus with all the bumps on the road and everything else would didn't fare well. But they were doing. Sooni didn't bother her. But she knew exactly. How she wanted each song to feel that I was aware. She would start the song. She was uncomfortable, I could tell right away. It was never a problem with keys, was a problem with time.

Speaker Did he have absolute pitch? Right. And the same way that you the two of you share that? Yes, sir.

Speaker Ella was, by her own admission, terribly consumed with stage fright. Always, I think, throughout her entire career. Can you describe. That or your experience with that?

Speaker There was a worshipper. She. She loved people in the in show business.

Speaker She certainly like turning certain movie stars and certain Broadway stars and other vocalists with performers. I think the most nervous. I think that I was seen anywhere in two spots in this world. One would be Hollywood when they'd come out the hair or the bow or one of the concerts. The other one would be wrong. At that time, they were making quite a few Italian movies. And certainly people like Sophia Loren would come in, come out to hear Ella, and she would be like a nervous wreck. You know, she'd see Sophie's in the audience and she'd be almost coming apart, you know. And I could tell my watch was standing. I mean, she's to be standing there. How could you ever be going back and forth in her hand? You know, she'd be pulling on it.

Speaker And you could tell that she was nervous and she was very conscious of the people that she admired in show business. And they would make her nervous. She was a worshipper.

Speaker Who wouldn't? I mean, I would be nervous to.

Speaker We interviewed Whitney Balliett, who is probably your favorite critic in the world. But at one point he said that she really believed that Ella was a singer, although very good, technically saying without emotion.

Speaker I'm just throwing that out there as a thought. If you could just react to that for me.

Speaker The strange thing about people that do things very well.

Speaker Maybe it's the cooking they bring into the. Performance, the talent. In other words, it is so big.

Speaker And it is done with such knowledge and such ease that some people misinterpret that as coldness and lack of feeling. It's not true. It's fact that these people are so well equipped with the talent they can do it without emoting like some other people have to do to bring out what they have the same side of them.

Speaker Or she she's to call you her lawyer. Why would you?

Speaker I was Ali's lawyer. Persay. Whenever she had problems in her personal life and she'd. Tell me. Come on by and have some of the accounts come up to my sweet night, Grosz's. We'd sit there and she'd say, you know, this is happening and I don't know what to do about it. She asked my advice. I'm not equipped to do the right kind of advice in any way I could do is react the way I thought I would react to that particular situation. And as a result, we would talk for hours. And I think it was really just a matter of unloading for her. She had to talk to someone. And I guess that was a good listener.

Speaker You to tell even by looking at you.

Speaker A lot of people have said that she inspired them to take care of her.

Speaker There are a lot of people who have talked about the little girl quality, although I think that's a little patronizing. But she has this quality of almost urging people to. Come to her to help her out.

Speaker I mean, it was a quality and it was definitely a form of helplessness. Noah. And a mild confusion is what a value and she won't feel comfortable in this situation. She didn't know where a situation was going. She'd get very nervous. And the person that could read that best of anybody was Norman Granz in my book, because he was. And he was her best protector. He could foresee a lot of these things happening. He'd know when we arrive in this in a certain city and certainly in Europe or Japan, they come. Two interviews, the press would come with their background briefings and so forth and the questions and he could tell at the moment, he felt her getting uptight about it. And Decolonize. But she had a way of. There were signs that you could read Bonalbo was getting nervous that certain things she'd do, as they said, the handkerchief, you know. And as she put it here, there was another thing. There were little signs back and forth that we could tell. She really was an.

Speaker Happy with your situation at that time.

Speaker She insecure?

Speaker Actually, she's very, very insecure.

Speaker She she was unsure and I think most of my life when I knew her, she was certainly unsure about most subjects. She. She was afraid to take many steps without advice or encouragement.

Speaker You were all touring together when she and Ray Brown broke up. Can you tell us without violating any confidence? How did she handle it?

Speaker There's a lot of pain when she and Ray broke up. From where I was sitting.

Speaker And it was something that I.

Speaker Well, I have to say that she really didn't know how to handle it. And she reacted spasmodically at different times because of. There were times that she would. Get upset if Ray worked in the same restaurant or room shoes was eating at that time and other times I'd be sitting there eating and she'd be looking around. She'd say, where's rain? And you could tell them that it was still there. Whatever the feelings were, she still needed to feel his presence. And then, of course, none was played on that. We tried to cater to it, but we didn't know exactly how to handle it because they had broken up and that was that.

Speaker It's really it's quite amazing to even for me to imagine going touring with my husband, you know, refunders, it's gotta say something about music and the making of music, I think.

Speaker But there's an incredible story that you tell about getting on a bus and way with signing autographs. And then Ella came in after you. Can you tell that again for us?

Speaker Well, we were waiting to leave after a concert. The bus was there and everybody was getting on the bus. And. This is shortly after they had decided to call it quits and rain, I used to sit together many times and watch somebody sit in front of me or behind me. And. There were some ladies there are usually right at the stage door. You know, there was a stage grannies.

Speaker You could tell in every city in L.A. it was quite money to be from. She was very prompt about everything she wanted to be on time for and everything in her life. And so when she knew what time.

Speaker OK, go ahead. Do you have a stage? Let me just put you on the stage door. OK, look, it was my.

Speaker And these ladies would be at the stage door every concert. We knew that would be these back. And of course, Elmasry pronto. But I mean, she did a tragedy. And if the bus would mean leaving and leaving 45 or 45 after a concert, she'd be on that bus. Well, before. And as usual, she was on the bus and I was sitting across the aisle, not directly from my.

Speaker She was one seat back and.

Speaker There were these ladies out front waiting. I mean, at the stage door waiting to sign autographs to say hello. Whatever they're going to do. And finally making out with his base. In.

Speaker They said something I'm hearing. He answered and started the conversation with them, whatever it was. And I guess he was pretty easy to see that she was stewing about this. He wasn't too too pleased about this. And when she. When he got on the bus, he sort of turned he turned away from the aisle and looked out of the window as if she was looking down the street. And the result of that was that I was the one that got punched because suddenly all of a sudden she said something me said by you, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom one, you behave yourself. And she punched me. And it was a fairly robust woman, as you realize. And it smarted, you know, and I was I remember saying to me, man, you know, if you if you want to do that, don't involve me in it because I'm I'm an innocent party. And his remark was why she didn't do anything to me. What are you beefing about? You know, when I was one of those things where I took the lump for him.

Speaker That's part of being a lawyer. I guess that's your role in life, being a lawyer. I want to be okay. Did you ever think you're a lonely.

Speaker And it was a very lonely woman. She really was. I can get one of the instances that sticks in my memory vividly is she had this beautiful home in Beverly Hills.

Speaker And. I wanted to visit here me. I just dropped in.

Speaker The living room was empty, dining room was empty, and there she was at nine, 30 at night or something sitting in the corner. This really large kitchen. These cartons of Chinese food by himself. And I don't think I'll ever forget.

Speaker That's seen the way the way I walked in on it. It was like a cameo that stuck with me always. There she was sitting by herself on the television, set up on the counter, watching something and eating this Chinese food.

Speaker Unbelievable.

Speaker It's Paul Smith. Others have commented on Allen's unbelievable touring schedule. And just it's mind boggling to me and traveling with sick or tired or whatever. How did she survive that schedule?

Speaker What was it about her as a person that made her?

Speaker I think Ellen came up in the area of showbiz this where there is that adage again. The show must go on. So regardless of what was going on, she was a trooper. She would be there sometimes on the jumps would be rest in between concerts because we were dragging a lot of those concerts. And I know when we get to where we were going. I was really tired. I'd be tired mentally and physically, I'd be tired. Elena, you know, would go to her dressing room and be get ready and start the concert by the time she came out. It was just as if she'd just come out of our home and go to the concert hall. She'd be as fresh and revitalized. I can't remember ever being tired onstage. I really can't remember various other people, including yours truly, just being fatigued. I can't really recall. Any particular night where he can say, well, voila. We couldn't come up with it tonight. She was hanged. It didn't happen in my life. Remembrance.

Speaker It is incredible. I have heard stories of her with an abscess tooth, which I know how painful. Singing much the same as she was at Carnegie Hall the month before.

Speaker He said the era of show business the day. As I said earlier, that. And they came up in. We're gonna see what happens. You have a show to do and you did it. There were no ifs, ands or buts. You did the show and then fell out. If you were to be sick.

Speaker You recorded one studio album with her. I believe Ella and Oscar in 75. How did you prepare for that? Because I know that you're used to working together before an audience.

Speaker That particular album, Ellen and Oscar. There was really no preparation or was just notification that we were going to do it. That's we normally like to work. Make things improvised. He like pure and he liked them without the artist or performer having a chance to sort of conjure up. Going to do this particular thing here and there. He wanted to hear the pure reactionary. Performance and all I know is that he said we don't we wouldn't do an album with you and Ella. It's about time we said fine, I didn't really like training rehearsals because I know I played for her over and over again. I didn't think she was going to reach out and get something that I really didn't know because he had let us know that we both were going to participate in on the album. I was just going to be a company. I'd be playing solos and so forth. The main thing I remember on that album was we decided to do a.

Speaker Leslie, Billy Strayhorn, slash knife.

Speaker Nothing. The reason I remember that more than anything else is that. Ali used to do most of the things that I did with her. Within three takes. Know, be experienced noise or something would happen electronically. We had to start over. Or she'd be pleased with something she sang. And she'd do another levitate. But within three, you had the performance and we got the lush life. And I have to be honest, I blew the first. First four takes or so. Because it's a tough tune. It's one of the hardest things I think I've ever played. And please stop.

Speaker You start settlement then, Alan. Certain things. Then she became uncertain about the team because I had a stigma to it. And someone had told her that.

Speaker That said, someone told her that Billy Strayhorn said nobody really knows how to play or sing this tune. And she was she and she had this in the back of her mind. So after I made my four footpaths, she stopped and said, I don't think that's right. Let's hear that. And we listened to it. And then it's not I think I was wrong here. Turn up. I think we did about 16 takes on that tune, which is an awful lot of takes. But we take that she wanted was to take that. That was one. No one wanted deals.

Speaker She did more than.

Speaker Was my team I used to do that all the time, because you do the verse to it, which you sell inherently whenever you hear the tune. Very few people used to do the verse, do more than you know. I always thought of such a beautiful verse that she used to sing and no one else.

Speaker And that was that and.

Speaker Imagination. I used to burger to sing all the time and she'd say, oh yes you do for me tonight. She. She didn't comply. She'd chatted with the store asking she'd do it. This is when Hank was Hank Jones was flanked or signed a double treated. Hear her saying it. And I get to hear Hank playing behind her.

Speaker How we doing for take such moments? Six more minutes. Maybe we should just.

Speaker OK. You know what? Let's frickin which is cheap. Ali's career coincided with the civil rights movement.

Speaker Many different ways. I mean, yours as well. Really moving along from the 30s, 40s, you know, into the 60s.

Speaker We know it. How did she see her role in that struggle?

Speaker My personal opinion about his feelings about her role. Whatever it was in the civil rights movement. Don't say this. She was terrified.

Speaker She was absolutely terrified. She.

Speaker I think it points she couldn't believe that this was happening. Because if we stop and think about it, the adulation that she enjoyed from the stage. All dissipated. The moment. Policewoman with the forty fives on the hip and about 10 showed up and she couldn't believe this and she couldn't believe what was going on. When that call got beaten up, she was.

Speaker A total wreck. And I don't think she could really see herself in the role of marching necessarily with Dr. King. Her heart breaks to women, but she could physically see herself physically doing it. And I think that was part of the frustration. And she had a great anger. What was what was going on? But she was also at the base of it was terror. They terrorized dealing with it. And Norman Ran's mean the civil rights leader was in his own way, insisting that we break down certain hotels in certain places for eating and silver and. She was terrorized even then, she was nervous for staying in those hotels, being the first. Well, one of the first black persons to say in these various hotels, she would be where she'd be afraid to come out of her room many times. It had very dire effect on her.

Speaker I remember that because it is it's amazing if you think about it. And it really wasn't that long ago, the fact that here was this woman was so popular for so long and yet had to incur and you name a couple of stories in your book and I'm sure that others. And Norman himself had to take the blows. Gone now. But doesn't that I mean, what is it about that she ever talk to you about the injustice?

Speaker She was very angry. That's where you are.

Speaker Just as a young woman had seen these three undercover policemen and they were sort of skulking about their head. Somebody had brought out Dyce backstage. They were waiting for perhaps you didn't show up. And the undercover policeman just swept in Houston some time.

Speaker You remember they know that there's two stories along the way in the basement.

Speaker When they arrested everything, he took them down for gambling backstage and the Houston police and the Houston papers. The papers print the police badge for the chicken out of the next day after the their and the other moments where they they suspected something that some of the members for some reason, and the troops were using drugs. And this was in Philadelphia and they were known for being bad news that we had known Kathy Sleeman trying to get in the restroom. If he just sorted it out. He said, no, I'm not planning anything on anybody tonight. And we had all the backstage credit said this.

Speaker What did Norman do for Ella, both in terms of for her as a person, for you, for the two of you? And in a rare way, you talk about the.

Speaker It's very hard to say what I would do capsulize what nine grands did, certainly for Elena and for me. Because there was so much involved, if I had to pick anything, I would say the word I would use would be guidance. When in the broadest of senses. In other words, he just didn't sit in his office and say.

Speaker Do this gig or do that gig. I don't do that. He had feelings attached to that. He knew both Alan and myself so well. He knew there was certain things he could not.

Speaker Operate with certain places, we couldn't work comfortably. You know, certainly she didn't really fit us in what we might have wanted to play and he would guide us through all the same. I don't think you want to do that. You know, you really don't want to leave. They want to meet your fee and all of us. I hope it's not a good place for you to play or there'll be places where perhaps we didn't think we fit in in that particular. Niche in show business. And that's what you need, say no, I think it'd be good for you to play because they don't get that many jazz people in there. And it's, I think, be great if, you know, we'll find them. And this is the kind of guidance that he did all throughout our career, even to the vanilla especially. He guided her. The recording fees alone. Tremendous library that have left. And behind, when that was left behind, an hour passed and a lot of this was, at Norman's insistence, the composer city, a series, she at first wasn't sure that she wanted to do all those things, that she didn't know the lyrics, which didn't matter because he brought all the tunes in for her and wanted her to be comfortable. The other thing I did compose the series also the other thing that he did was that he. He would come in on the stage in. Of each selection, which he did, he go over a program, so they say, you know, you're going to do this team. I think this is a good place to put that. Because this year he knew pretty well the reactions of the various. Audiences need city, you've seen I remember you're in Chicago, they've been looking for this kind of thing, and so maybe we should do this. And it was that kind of guidance that Norman gave us. That was over and above the managerial. Portrait of well, let's look at became her name because they get this this much money in. It wasn't a matter of that. It was a matter. He wanted the best for his artist.

Speaker What was his vision of Elliott's career? Did you find more about this, doesn't it? It must've been similar to what he imagined for you to.

Speaker What do you envision, drill and let me fight for for Allah? I think. Was to give her the same footing in the show world that people like Paly.

Speaker For one and not a single penny of it, but places that she played in everything that no before I thought of having Elane. He wanted only the Fairmont Hotels and Cisco. Well, they aren't. Various Asian folks have won overwhelmingly. I remember when she was going to play there, finally, he said finally that I'm going to put Ali in the Sherman. Said really? Said you. I have tactics swinging. He's going to do. He's going to have any chance show. It was a lockout. The show's a great success and it became a regular thing. He was very proud of that because she had never played that element in show business. She was always in the jazz clubs. Not that that's derogating jazz, but she could never rise above to the big clubs. You know, where there is heavy bread was she could never get to that point and it took nomine to do it for her.

Speaker So he really just he he saw the big stage people like you, and he wanted to put you on it.

Speaker Why do you think why? Why was he so willing to.

Speaker I think the main reason that he Naaman had certain things that he wanted to do, both L and myself. Because with your family to see who was managing the time. I think you have to respect and love for one of the talents we have had. And he believed so deeply in our talents that he felt. That they had to be seen and heard in various places of the world.

Speaker I mean, when he played a hotel in London, one of the biggest hotels in London, getting in the names. I never had that kind of a show and he put in the.

Speaker With a big band and my. And I think it was like 100 pounds or something for each seat. And he broke it off. He believed he was a dedicated believer.

Speaker There's a lot of stories of behind the songbooks and perhaps, you know, some people believe that Elliott will be best known for the songbook recorded.

Speaker Perhaps she will be best known for the songs. Because they encompass so many great American composers. And they just not many of them are not even in the jazz idiom. But this is, again, what he felt, that her talent was bright enough to spend.

Speaker That whole.

Speaker Landscape of music. And that's where he. Was trying to do any. He did the same thing with acting the money companion of the records of RTM. I remember him calling me up saying I'm recording Dean and, you know, he just did this during the night. And the other two. And then I said we hadn't really. And, of course, it was my man. And she lied. And then I remember one night he called me and he said, you know, you're not going to believe this. He said the tape ran out during one of the selections. And he said, I was so embarrassed and so frustrated. I didn't want to tell him, but I had to go out and time him because he was sitting out there playing.

Speaker And I said, wait a not. I said, he's with tape is running out. Citizens said, oh, that's okay. Just just play back the part they didn't know. After the last note, he picked it up from there. You finished it. No tape. And this is something, a normal marvel that with performers, you know, when you find that kind of talent around him, he'd revelled in it. He really did.

Speaker It was an enormously generous person, a person with a soft touch, huge heart. She also had problems saying no requests for appearances. All right. It was known that she handled money poorly.

Speaker You know, did she perhaps she really needed that kind of management around her. Was that an impression that you had as well of her?

Speaker I think you needed all the help that Norma tried to give her insofar as managing her personal income. I think she needed all that help and he set her up with that, an accounting firm that had to report not just to her but team also. And he kept an eye on these things because she was. Ella was a target. Let's face it, almost anyone. And she was so Saffar that you buy almost anything, certainly for charities and this and that and the other. She'd go for no reason not to do that. You know, she said when he gets home, Jones, I see why.

Speaker You don't even know what that's all about. Well, listen, a nice young lady in here and I said that and he says that's no reason to do that. Let's do this. Is that this much better served if you do it this way? I mean, again, he was guiding her in things that you didn't understand because she was as a sort of tyrant, as they're saying, you know, it's. That she would go for almost any story she'd bound with anything.

Speaker Her legacy, just even in terms of the child care center in Lynwood, California, and the work that she's done for the Diabetes Foundation. I mean, these are still very active involvements on the part of the charitable trusts. So she talk about causes or or places that she really wanted to dedicate her time.

Speaker I seem to remember that Elena had one huge weakness, and that was children. If you wanted to get the hell off his Geran, the easiest way was to go through a channel. Because you want to know her address, I mean, she might look up and see you and be embarrassed and turn it back on you out of frustration. But if you walked in with a child, she was putty in your hands. She just loved children. Momentary weakness, I if she had any, that wasn't.

Speaker She never had one herself.

Speaker No, she had adopted son.

Speaker Yeah, that must've been. Well, I'm sure she loved him very much.

Speaker Do you think that Ella. Prolonged her career? The point that she still had a voice.

Speaker Do you think you. You're not listening to me.

Speaker I think she wanted to. I think Ellen wanted to sing. I hate to say this to her dying day. There were things again, Norman, that discrepancy. I don't think she can do this. And why my record? I don't think she can handle this. He'd call me it was. They want Ella to do songs on his own. So I say, oh yeah, this crazy but she. She can't. Not because your voice is. She's having a problem. And she had her health problems. As we all probably know, and he had to hold back certain things because she would really have injured the great images that she still has today. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Speaker This just to skip back and realize that there's a question that I forgot you. You have a reputation in addition to being probably the best reputation, an incredibly versatile P.A. and very well accomplished. But you also have a reputation as being a prankster, a great wit, a prankster.

Speaker There's one great story that I know about you, but it's only for the dry cleaning bag store. Can you tell us that? I don't want to forget.

Speaker Actually, this particular incident came came about because not an. But because of our drummer gustier at the time, Gus Johnson, who had a habit of coming standing in the wings while my trio was on. And he'd do all kinds ridiculous things, you know, undress and do this and do the other thing. And we break up. Okay. So I decided one night that I was going to really do it up and. He was fleeing Foiler and see, only me I could get you on was during that said. And so I went upstairs and found one of those plastic garment bags. Clear plastic bags. My dad was weighing probably close to 400 pounds at the time. And I stripped down to my underwear and I cut out the corner in each corner from I took one from my legs and two from my arms.

Speaker And somehow managed to zip myself into this thing. I remember it was hot as hell. And I went downstairs and Elvis was singing some ballad. And I did a survey that saw the fear that the forest fairies in the wings. Of course, guess collapsed. He almost dropped his. And she looked around and I was standing in this pose in this garment bay. The frustration is dripping out because I was dying. That thing was so hot. And she was singing more than, you know, those songs. And she said, I. She. She just said.

Speaker Script. She said in the audience. Know what he's doing?

Speaker Christ Momma's in the back of the theater and he heard this. He came racing. I'll let you run back upstairs in a cold. My wrestling. But crunch. The whole show. I didn't intend to stop the show. Doesn't anything really get Gus Johnson? But in the misses, I did get out. I didn't intend to get in that.

Speaker I would think that she must have appreciated her with. I mean, looking back on it now, some sometimes. What was it about it that she made? She she always had very close relationships with somebody who could, you know, play well for her.

Speaker And also, I mean, she had a great sense of humor. I know I used to break up. My parents were from the West Indies and there was a West Indian background. And I used to try to party with Steve Balik. You know, she'd say something and I said, do we stand alone or should it be fierce? And she'd fall on the floor laughing because I'm sure it triggered childhood memory for it. And I remember once your. Wynton Kelly was on the tour with us with another group.

Speaker Go spend.

Speaker I remember one tour that Kelly was on with us playing piano for some of the group. I guess it was Miles Summit where he's was to Heritage also used to have these conversations on the bus that would get to the point where I would have tears streaming down her face and she'd call moments and not make them stop me because we went and I would get in this West Indian conversation. I said, what? You know, man, what a good word. And so one's on. And she's the one who put her down and the tears just run down her face. She had a great sense of humor in that way. You know, I got her once the best I think I ever got Alla.

Speaker Was a nun gave here? I think it was a chinchilla coat was a gift, a beautiful show, uncle.

Speaker And then I went into the dressing room online and it was hanging in a little alcove and there was sort of this table type thing. So I went in and I had this pin.

Speaker We had a.

Speaker About me, I was reading. What are you doing this and answering, let her home, see you. Be careful. My new code. I sent you what? She didn't know that I'd been down to the junk store and I'd bought one of those of bombs, Renk with the blob, with bombs on the side.

Speaker And the flow link is a Sony plastic. But when you look at the fast, it looks like ink running. And she went up the scene. You see now you be careful, Michael. I see. I don't worry about it. And then she him back, I think, sitting right on the end of her coat. I was sitting there. Oh, my God. It's similar to manage. You looked over. Thank you, sir. No, I said, Fitz, I'm so sorry. And she's not even through all of that with the shock. She tried to be nice. She said it's okay. It's all right. So but, you know, it's okay. Don't worry about it. And course, when she found you and me, I'm addressing. But she had a great sense of humor. I mean, I could make her laugh almost any time I wanted to.

Speaker Wonderful. That's great. Just to go from the sublime to the ridiculous for a minute there.

Speaker If you stop people on the street, oftentimes, you know, ask them, when was the first time you heard Ella Fitzgerald and what what did you think at the time? A lot of people will say, I heard the voice on the radio and the record, and then I saw her picture and I couldn't believe it was the same person. Which is such an odd thing to say. I'm wondering if you have a reaction to that.

Speaker Believe me, I can react to that kind of response, is that because of the voice? I think she conjured up in people's minds. The vision of maybe some of the other. Female vocalist there were around that had the sultry thing going, you know what I mean? And the voice was so beautiful and so velvet that they had I'm sure they had more, much more of an ongoing person in mind than the person they'd see when they met or sign with his child for the first time.

Speaker Did you have that reaction?

Speaker No, I was totally I was totally taken with the timbre of the voice and the and the. Control. I didn't even have a thought about what she looked like. I could care less. All I knew was that she could sing.

Speaker Right. There's one song that defines our. What would it be?

Speaker I would have to say more than you know. I think that's a sound that she. He's saying better than anyone else that I've heard, seen this, no. And I think she understood that song better than she and it's spent a lot about the songs. And I think because of what was going on in her life at the time. She was able to project that type of feeling.

Speaker What do you mean by that? Can you elaborate? Thinking about the lyrics. Let's sing it for you to tell me.

Speaker I'm just thinking maybe there's my son. Now I love you, so thank me. I find you're on my mind. More on the piano. Please do. No lyrics.

Speaker She's to call at her church in some. But I think. She was talking at the time. And as a result. She was really just, as we say, speaking our minds. I think she was singing her mind.

Speaker Wonderful.

Speaker What were your thoughts when you heard that she had died?

Speaker I remember the exact moment that I heard. That area had passed.

Speaker Strangely enough, I was in the recording studio.

Speaker And. Think cocaine.

Speaker And somebody I can't mean that my memory's blurred. It has to.

Speaker Told me someone said they just called to say, I lied, bastardly, even come as a shock because I knew she was ill.

Speaker It came as a loss.

Speaker It came as if somebody had, you know, those kooky cameras that you use for cutting out cookies. Same as if somebody sticking the walls and just pulled out. Part of me eyes. I just sort of.

Speaker Backbench revolt. Five minutes in middle age. I couldn't get focused. And. The record producer gave me down to get myself together and I managed to get myself together. And that's why I wrote the tune she has gone for. It's the last you can't make a. Because Elena had our fights, we had our disagreements.

Speaker But we had our great living sessions and she said to me, just I just love. Where you planned this thing and the other end. I think when someone coming to my shows in London, England. I stopped the TV show and I played something for her to try and tell her, I said, I'm not going to tell you what it is you do for musicians. And I played the sequence of harmonic changes and I said, you know, you could play this way or you could play this way. When I would play it this way. When I hear you singing. And I was trying to express to her what she had given me. Because.

Speaker She gave her life to a lot of people. She certainly gave me a lot. She gave me. The chance to appreciate. Fantastic way that.

Speaker Sometimes a mundane home can be interpreted because there were songs some nights she'd used to sing. They weren't my favorites. It didn't make any difference. And know there was me and I had to play for. But somehow in in singing that song. She would meet me like that performance of the song. And that's not easy to do because usually I don't like a song. I turn away. And she had that ability, and I'm sure she had it with a lot of other musicians because we had such great not just love them, such great respect for her. And they knew the immensity of her particular musical talent.

Speaker Wonderful. What was her most significant contribution to jazz?

Speaker Guess the only answer I can give you about her contribution, your greatest contribution to jazz would have to be herself. Just being there for that particular period and doing what she did in that particular period.

Speaker Because within that period, she gave so much musically and inspirationally that it's very difficult to measure the.

Speaker Anything else you can think of any and through any any particular quirks, like if you thought. You had to buy a present for Ella. Wait, and what where did you go with that?

Speaker I'd like to buy a present for. I know Alan loved Joey and didn't have to be expensive jewelry, which you like pretty jewelry. And I know she she has gifted me several times with some beautiful cufflinks. And things like that have been.

Speaker I think I would buy her. Pendent.

Speaker And I know that I recently I was touring South where I'm going to have a chance to look at some of the wonderful natural stones they have their. I think I'm a buyer pendant made of stone, sandstone, golby, watermelon changes color as you look at it. And he would have that sent and give him one of those.

Speaker Any other if she were she were here again now, what would you say to her or what? What what? Was there anything that remained unsaid or undone with which you were here?

Speaker And I would say, thank God you're back and don't ever leave again. Because she's dreadfully needed in the music world, I feel how.

Speaker A attack. This will be interesting to hear.

Speaker Well, with all due respect.

Speaker For the so-called six excuse me, the success of various. Female vocalist Tony.

Speaker Very few of them really know how to sing in my book. They certainly do not know how to sing. The way Ellen, who had to sing. I don't get the feeling. That the voice. It's really a part of them.

Speaker I think it's an instrument they call upon, but they reach over here for the dollar. It was all in one sense saying this general came forward from our sister. I don't get that feeling today.

Speaker It is truly remarkable if you think about it. I mean, she had an innate quality. I mean, there was no training at the beginning. You know, it just it was really God given. I mean, it's just it seems that way.

Speaker The hardest challenge to overcome or do understand is the tendency really that.

Speaker Deep and, of course, given my God. And the people that. Hardest to to.

Speaker Do without the people that have been given this gift. Because every time one of them departs, we lose a piece of something. You know, people they created in show business offices and so forth and pushed forward by the record companies in the film industry and so forth.

Speaker That's all very well, but, you know, the person that walks in and says, I think I can sing. And they can prove it and back it up with the kind of talent somewhere close to even one Hallahan. That's. What music needs today? We don't have that. We have a different. Thing going. It's totally different picture.

Speaker It's very high tech.

Speaker You know, she's still the same. Ali used to sing on the bus every day. Once in awhile she'd suddenly just. Started seeing.

Speaker Now you have to envision on the West the ME. Some of the guys playing cards, some might be playing dice the back, some be telling jokes and laughing, others should be sleeping.

Speaker Snoring. But she'd bring that bus to a standstill. And this is a bus full of. Pretty talented guys. And they would almost be like transfixed in their seats. They become like statues, you know, they just sit there in. Go ahead. Where she was.

Speaker Then she just quietly go on scene. And she wasn't trying to involve anyone because when she wanted to sing with somebody, she'd say to Ray, get your basis on, you know. But she just start singing, singing or she'd say in awhile. Do you remember this tune? And it was with a quiet. Because you don't see that kind of talent. I don't I don't think we'll ever see that again. I'm who made a judgment in my book. I certainly haven't seen anything close to it.

Speaker What drove her to we're it up. We have enough 10 seconds. One minute.

Oscar Peterson
Interview Date:
1999-01-28
Runtime:
0:54:57
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-cv4bn9xp77, cpb-aacip-504-jq0sq8r42g
MLA CITATIONS:
"Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 28 Jan. 1999, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/507
APA CITATIONS:
(1999, January 28). Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/507
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 28, 1999. Accessed June 28, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/507

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