How High the Moon: by Ella Fitzgerald

Our Music Choice is Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘How High The Moon’. This great song was written in 1940 by Morgan Lewis with the excellent lyrics by Nancy Hamilton. In the past we have recommended the Les Paul/Mary Ford version, and, of course, the genius Charlie Parker used the chord sequence for his several versions of ‘Ornithology’.

For Ella, the song became her signature tune and she performed and recorded it many times, always ‘scatting’ after the first chorus and always quoting from Parker’s masterpiece. Generally ‘scatting’ is the downfall of too many jazz singers, lacking improvisational ideas, not hitting the chords and often flat. But that was not so for Ella Fitzgerald, who was a musicians’ singer, endlessly inventive, acknowledging every chord change, and always in tune.

This writer (George Wellor) had the good luck to see and hear her several times on her visits to the UK. She was, of course, uniquely gifted as a singer; but she was always humble on the stage and, in contrast to today’s warblers, dignified. Her love was for the songs she sang and not for herself. Although over-weight and certainly not glamorous, her gracefulness and musical mastery were sufficient for a public that was composed of grown-ups. It has seemingly now given way to pre-teen musical morons of all ages, including Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and most conservative Talk Show hosts.

In 1960, Ella Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996) sang at a concert in Berlin, with Paul Smith (piano) Jim Hall (guitar), Wilfred Middlebrooks (bass) and Gus Johnson (drums). ‘How High The Moon’ was recorded and is as good as any of the other versions. Enjoy if you are a grown-up!

Photo Credits: Ella Fitzgerald, from The image has been cropped for use on this website.

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