Celebrate the centennial of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 17, at the Allen Public Library. This free tribute to The First Lady in Song will be led by Andrew Griffith and will feature selections sung by Dallas vocalist Leena Conquest. Accompaniment will be provided by Roger Boykin on keyboard and Jonathan Fisher on acoustic bass.
One of greatest female jazz singers in the United States, Ella dazzled her fans for more than half a century. Garnering 13 Grammy awards, she sold over 40 million albums. Singing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and even imitating orchestral instruments, Ella partnered with iconic jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie.
Raised in meager circumstances, her first major break was performing for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. In 1938, at the age of 21, Ella recorded a playful version of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." The album sold 1 million copies, hit number one, and stayed on the pop charts for 17 weeks. Ella was now a national sensation.
Ella collaborated with producer and manager Norman Granz on the "Jazz at the Philharmonic" tour. Under Norman's management, Ella worked with Louis Armstrong on several albums and began producing her infamous songbook series. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded Ella the National Medal of Arts. It was one of her most prized moments
Performing as Ella, Leena is a recording artist steeped in the jazz tradition. Her voice and presence has an ability to transcend from classic to modern jazz. A Texas native, her recordings include “Raining on the Moon” (thirstyear.com), “Cornmeal Dance,” and “I Plan to Stay a Believer.” She has worked with a host of jazz luminaries including trumpeter Doc Cheatham, pianist Mal Waldron and vibesman Roy Ayers. Her duo CD Dave Burrell Plays His Songs featuring Leena Conquest (Tracce), revisits Burrells's classic compositions “while Leena Conquest gives them fresh life,” notes Washington DC Radio WPFW's Bobby Hill.
Band leader Andrew Griffith played with the University of North Texas Jazz Repertory Ensemble and the 3 O’Clock Lab Band, Wynton Marsalis, Red Rodney, Doc Cheatham, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, and numerous others. In 2004, Andrew was recipient of the Sammons Jazz Artist of the Year Award. Andrew has recorded with Marchel Ivery, Joey DeFrancesco, James Gilyard, Sandra Kaye, Simone Jackson-Rodgers, Roger Boykin, Curt Bradshaw, Gregory Slavin, The Texas Gypsies, and others.
Founder of Soultex Records and Soultex Publishing Company, Roger Boykin has contributed to the Texas music scene for several decades, as a jazz musician, educator, radio announcer, composer, arranger, author and publisher of print music and songs. Performing in 1986 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Roger wrote a jazz-oriented, orchestral piece called “Patience” on a commission from the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. With another commission from the Dallas Wind Symphony, he wrote “Freedmen’s Town Flourish,” performed at the Meyerson Symphony Hall.
Bassist Jonathan Fisher is a graduate of the University of North Texas Jazz Studies Program in Denton, Texas. Traveling to Paris, France. for studies with modern bass virtuoso and pedagogue François Rabbath, Jonathan’s approach to the bass is one of optimal ergonomic positioning and balance. Passionate about jazz, bass and music, Jonathan played with revered members of the national jazz and music scene such as Wynton Marsalis, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Bernadette Peters and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
The library is located at 300 N. Allen Dr. Call 214-509-4911 for more information