Thursday, May 1, 2008

Let Me Connect You With Ella's Room

In 1991 Ella Fitzgerald was performing her last concert at Carnegie Hall and I always would get to see her when Joe Pass played for her, since Joe was a terrific friend.

I called the Hotel that both Joe and Ella were staying at looking to speak with Joe. The person at the switchboard told me that they couldn't find Joe and said "Do you want me to put you through to Ella's room?" I couldn't believe that she asked me that. I was thinking to myself what kind of an idiot would refuse talking to Ella, so I said sure. As it turned out Joe Pass had already come and gone from her room to work out what songs they were to perform together.

A few times previous to this date I had met Ella, but very briefly, only talking to her but a few minutes each time, but when Ella picked up the phone and told me Joe wasn't there somehow she started telling me about how she had just gotten over a cold and how she visited Europe and how much they loved her there and we had a really great 10 - 15 minute conversation and here I was at work never expecting to be talking to the First Lady of Song at all. I wasn't the only one that was surprised that I spoke to Ella, but that night her manager saw me and came over and said "how did you do that?" I said "do what?" He said "talk to Ella for so long on the telephone. Because when her soap operas start she doesn't talk to anyone and I mean anyone, she even kicks me out of the room, and I'm her manager!" I can only guess that she felt like talking that day and was thrilled to be performing there at Carnegie Hall.

That night I didn't actually get a seat out front. Somehow Joe Pass seemed to get me the most memorable ways to see his shows. This night he brought me up to Ella's room where they had two small sliding doors which when opened up were right above the stage and I could look down and see the performance from slightly in back of her.

After the show and all the celebrities paraded up to her room, like Carly Simon and Peter Allen and then Tony Bennet and a long line of people, Joe asked if I wanted to join them for drinks. What an amazing night, not only was I with the finest solo jazz guitarist in the world, the First Lady of Song, but at this hotel lounge (I believe we were on 56th Street) Wes Montgomery's brother, Buddy Montgomery was on the piano. Now how can you get a better night in seeing jazz than that!

Oh, and whoever you were, thanks for putting me through to Ella's room!

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