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Music: Remembering Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie with a Lively Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl was the setting for "Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories" on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy the Hollywood Bowl.

By Jenny Peters

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the births of both Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917) and Dizzy Gillespie (October 21, 1917), two legends in the world of jazz. So what better way to celebrate than with a thrilling night at the Hollywood Bowl?

“Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” was the moniker given to the show, which took place on July 19, 2017, on yet another perfect summer evening at the Bowl. With Conductor Vince Mendoza leading the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and actress CCH Pounder serving as the night’s host, concertgoers were treated to a show that began with a swingin’ set of Dizzy’s work and, after intermission, a collection of Ella’s greatest tunes, performed by a group of extremely talented singers – and one violinist!

Conductor Vince Mendoza led the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in a special commemoration of “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy Hollywood Bowl/Pamela Fong.

Trumpeter Jon Faddis led the first half, conducting the Dizzy 100th Celebration All-Star Big Band featuring Charles McPherson on saxophone and Billy Childs on piano in a tribute that included Gillespie’s best compositions. “Groovin’ High” and “Manteca” – with a smashing drum solo by Lewis Nash – were two highlights, along with “Things to Come,” “A Night in Tunisia” and “Algo Bueno.”

Trumpeter Jon Faddis led the Dizzy 100th Celebration All-Star Big Band during the Hollywood Bowl’s special commemoration of “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy Hollywood Bowl/John Abbott.

For the Ella portion of the program, Mendoza and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (which included Patrice Rushen on piano, Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums) kept up a gorgeous syncopation all night long, as different singers interpreted the songs that Fitzgerald made her own. Jane Monheit kicked things off with “Cheek to Cheek,” followed by Lizz Wright’s heartfelt version of “The Way You Look Tonight.”

Lizz Wright was one of the talented singers who helped celebrate the songs of Ella Firzgerald during the Hollywood Bowl’s special commemoration of “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy Hollywood Bowl/Jesse Kitt.

Then it was time for that incredible violinist, as Regina Carter took the stage and made her instrument sing in a wonderful rendition of the George and Ira Gershwin tune “Oh Lady Be Good.” And the great musical tribute kept on coming, as “Hamilton” Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr. wowed the happy audience with his fantastic renditions of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Night and Day” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Virtuoso violinist Regina Carter brought special moments to the “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” show at the Hollywood Bowl on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy Hollywood Bowl/David Katzenstein.

It was Andra Day who really brought down the house, however, with a hilarious rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s wacked out – yet Grammy Award-winning – version of “Mack the Knife,” right down to the lyrics that Ella hilariously garbled, yet made her own.

Jazz singer Andra Day gave an inspired performance during the Hollywood Bowl’s special commemoration of “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy Hollywood Bowl/Myriam Santos.

With so many talented singers and musicians, the Hollywood Bowl’s celebration of “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” was definitely a night to remember. Here’s hoping they decide to revisit more of Ella and Dizzy’s songbooks, long before another 100 years goes by.

Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom Jr. helped elevate the singing at the Hollywood Bowl’s special commemoration of “Ella and Dizzy: 100 Years, 1,000 Memories” on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy Hollywood Bowl/Christopher Boudewyns.

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About Jenny Peters (147 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's 10Best.com, AARP.org, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (www.criticschoice.com), which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.