Three Ellas

Room 43, Chicago, IL

Three Ellas - Dee Alexander, Freida Lee & Spider Saloff

Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr., Copyright 2010

Chicago has an abundance of female jazz vocalists and three of the absolute best entertained the Hyde Park Jazz Society's Sunday night audience with a tribute to the great first lady of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald. What a treat to have Spider Saloff, Freida Lee and Chicago's reigning first lady of jazz, Dee Alexander pay homage to Ella before an overflow crowd at this ever popular weekly South Side event. Although the scheduled start time was 7:30pm, there wasn't a seat to be found as early as 6:30pm for this Halloween evening gig. Those arriving after 6:30 had to wait in the lower level and observe on closed circuit T.V. until the beginning of the second set. The "Ellas" were accompanied by bassist Jim Katz, drummer Charles "Rick" Heath and keyboardist Jeremy Kahn. The format for the evening entailed each lady performing individually before joining forces for a number in unison concluding the set.

Saloff jumped started this event with "Prelude To A Kiss," "The Lady is a Tramp," and "How High is The Moon." It was on this final swinging number that drummer Heath responded to Saloff's scatting with his typical fluid handling of the sticks. The audience voiced it's approval of this number with a rousing ovation.

Classy Freida Lee opened her segment with Gershwin's "Not For Me" and Billy Strayhorn's "Something To Live For" and concluded with "Shining Stockings." It was on the final number that keyboardist Kahn articulated the skills that keeps him in demand as a leader and ensemble player in the Chicago area.

Superstar Alexander (attired in her Count Dracula Halloween outfit) concluded the initial individual segment with "Nice Work if You Can Get It,""Oh Lady Be Good" and "Blue Skies." Heath and Kahn displayed nice interplay on the first song.

Prior to the conclusion of the first set, Saloff absolutely "stole the show" with her lyrics to "Mack The Knife." As she began to sing the second verse, suddenly the words escaped her memory. Being the pro that this veteran is, she simply took advantage of the opportunity by creating her own lyrics which included some impromptu "rapping" (watch out Jay Z and Kanye West). The crowd was ecstatic with Spider's rendition of this classic number.

Finally, the first set came to a climatic conclusion with the three Ellas belting out "All of Me." Although it took three of Chicago's finest to emulate arguably the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, each performed admirably in the vein of Ella without committing musical sacrilege while impressing this standing room only audience.

For details about future Hyde Park Jazz Society events, refer to their website at www.hydeparkjazzsociety.com.

Dee Alexander

Spider Saloff

Freida Lee

Charles Rick Heath

Jeremy Kahn

Stewart Potter

Susan, Hattie, Diane & Diane

Hattie Bell

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