The impact of music on the soul is a bewitching human experience. Artists Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé created music whose impact is timeless, soul-lifting, and damn fun. They had fun giving it and you had fun internalizing their gifts. (HERE Mel and Ella explain jazz.)
Billy Stritch and Gabrielle Stravelli conjured Ella and Mel’s elixir of fun and soul-lifting music in their evening “Mel & Ella Swing!” and all of us who were present to witness this evening of joy and fun are the better for it both inside and out.
Ella Fitzgerald is considered one of the greatest female singers of all time and one of the best scatters. Mel Tormé was a musical prodigy having had his first professional gig at the ripe age of four. Yes, four years old! The two of them were master singers and scatters and with Mel, you can add composer. He composed his first song, Lament On Love, at sixteen, and next Christmas if you find yourself singing “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” you can thank Mel.
Stritch and Stravelli have been touched by the same divine creative inspiration as Mel and Ella and they shared that divinity in an evening with a set list made up of songs that are part of the great American songbook.
They sang solos, Stritch doing “Just One of Those Things,” and Stravelli, “I’ve Got Rhythm” where she scats the heck out of it, but it was their duets that brought the house down. With “Just In Time,” and “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket” S&S were a bonfire bringing warmth and light with their strikingly pure and extraordinary instruments.
Stravelli is tiny in stature but her vocal range is Mount Everest. She hits magical unreachable notes that just blew us all away with her immense talent.
I have said it before (and I’m not the only one who has) but it needs repeating, Billy Stritch is an American icon. He is Clark Kent in his cool glasses and without taking them off he sits at his piano plays for us and sings and transforms into Superman. He needs nary a cape, just the superpowers that emanate from his fingertips. Hearing him tinkling those ivories and singing is an otherworldly gift that we can all thank Krypton for.
S&S are great performers. Great performers don’t just sing songs, they embody them. They embody the words and the music and build on one another to make magic. This magic was supported and backed by excellent musicians, Patrick O’Leary on bass and Mark McClean on drums. They both contribute smooth, beautiful, and danceable tunes as I witnessed two waiters behind me cutting the rug as the musicians performed their duties. That was a first for me in the many times I’ve been to Birdland and it was wonderful and special to watch, AND I quietly wished I could get up and join them.
It was an astonishing evening thanks to the incomparable Billy Stritch and Gabrielle Stravelli.
Birdland is a gem where most often audience and performers create one big joyful family. Go and become part of the family.
Birdland Jazz Club 315 West 44th Street