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On improvisation, Ella, and Berlin

Judith Tick

Judith Tick

Professor of Music History Judith Tick lent her expertise on Ella Fitzgerald, the subject of Tick’s soon-to-be-published cultural biography, to a recent program for BBC Radio 4, entitled Ella in Berlin. While much of the program talks of Fitzgerald’s rise from American legend to international star upon her debut in postwar Germany, Tick talks of the impact improvisation, specifically during a moment of lyrical forgetfulness, had on that rise.

“Not only do we see this high wire act of a great entertainer realizing she’s about to fall off the tightrope and then getting herself back on, we watch that happen through improvisation,” Tick remarks. “And then we watch her impersonate – Ella was impersonating Louis Armstrong (…) When you impersonate someone in the jazz world that’s an act of friendship. It was pure love that was coming out in a time of great need.”

To hear the full program, with much more historical perspective from Tick and other contributors, visit the Ella in Berlin page at BBC Radio 4.