Fringe Review: Ella at Zardi’s

In 1956, acclaimed jazz vocalist Ella Fitzerald did a season at Zardi’s Jazzland in Los Angeles. On her final night, the entire show was recorded for an album release which never happened.

By
Ella Fitzgerald lives again
Overall
4

Reviewed at the Jade on 12 March 2019

Presented by Louise Messenger
Reviewed 12th March 2019

In 1956, acclaimed jazz vocalist Ella Fitzerald did a season at Zardi’s Jazzland in Los Angeles. On her final night, the entire show was recorded for an album release which never happened. Only recently did the vaults at Verve Records spill forth this hidden treasure, which Louise Messenger and trio recreate.

Messenger is a singer of almost impossible talent and class. She is quick to reassure that she is not out to impersonate Ella, but she certainly manages to encapsulate her and the style of the time. She is pitch-perfect, powerful, passionate and imaginative (apologies for the incomplete alliteration!).

The backing trio, consisting of  three of Adelaide’s most sublime jazz interpreters – Dave McEvoy on piano, Lyndon Gray on bass, and John McDermott on drums – delivers tight, smooth, swinging jazz, giving Messenger the space in which to ply her sultry vocals.

The set-list, following that of the album, includes such standards as It All Depends on You, Why Don’t You Do Right, Cry Me a River, S’Wonderful and Lullaby of Birdland.

Adding to the atmos, Messenger has several “plants” in the audience, who good-naturedly heckle and call out requests, allowing “Ella” to banter with them, as they do on the original recording. The Jade is a beautiful setting for this kind of show, although most of us keep hoping they will improve their torturous seating in the near future.

The musicality and stage-presence are unimpeachable. The only quibble is with the framework of the production itself. Messenger’s intro is far too long: the show would have worked better by opening with the first number, and then segueing into an intro that was about half the length. Also, Messenger needs to learn to wait until applause dies down before speaking, as much of her banter was lost. Possibly some work with a theatre director might tidy up some of these ragged edges.

Quite rightly, the rest of the Fringe season is sold out, but look out for more opportunities to see this stunning piece of jazz history.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Venue:  The Jade
Season:  SOLD OUT

 

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