August 3, 2021

Ella Fitzgerald’s long relationship with Mexico #ConCiertoDesconcierto

// By: Staff

May 17, 2018

By Mario Yaír TS

During the worst days of American racism and its heated demonstrations; On the elegant floor of Cabaret La Fuente, in a green scarf, pearl earrings and a small necklace, Ella Fitzgerald sang nostalgically. It was October 7, 1966, and although Uruchurtu demanded that nightclubs close at 1 a.m., Fitzgerald would start singing until 2 a.m.

Many times they had tried to bring the lady of jazz, but Eduardo Alcaraz fulfilled the dream until 1966. His visit was covered by all possible means. The dressing room was always full and among its musicians was Ed Thigpen, the great American drummer.

The nights of La Fuente turned blue, the cigarette smoke formed whimsical shapes that moved to the rhythm of the singer’s voice. The sounds of the drinks and the night were enveloped in melancholy as the minutes passed. She caressed the microphone with her voice. This is how they remembered their debut in Mexico.

He returned twice more, once in 1967 to sing at El Patio, and one last until 1979. This time more rugged and controversial. In an effort by the then director of the Cervantino Festival, Héctor Vasconcelos to increase the festival, he hired foreign stars, leaving aside the Mexicans. The newspapers even criticized that of the one hundred musicians of the Mexico City Philharmonic, only 10 were nationals, a classism that we have not overcome even today.

And while in Guanajuato the nationalist fight was being raffled and they struggled to know the exact accounts of the 25 million pesos that the festival would cost, in Mexico City, no one had warned Fitzgerald that Guanajuato was 5 hours away. After a terrible car trip, she arrived at her hotel room at Castillo Santa Cecilia feeling nervous and stressed. After a deep breath, he adjusted the thick glasses he was wearing and prepared to review the repertoire he was about to present. He didn’t even have time to get to know the stage.

Two concerts were scheduled at the José Aguilar y Maya Sports Park, one on May 17 and another on the 18th. The first was about to be canceled because the clouds began to obscure the sky, a canvas protected part of the audience, who preferred best to leave when the weather made it clear jazz wasn’t his thing by throwing down a torrential rain. With the stadium half full, Fitzgerald was not intimidated and began his presentation half an hour later than planned.

Friday the 18th was his last time in Mexico. The weather was soothed by the melodious voice of the robust singer. Tourists and those who were not there the day before blew up the stadium, and despite the microphones breaking down in the middle of the presentation, Fitzgerald did not stop singing. The Excelsior mentioned, – “Ella Fitzgerald sang in a stadium for more than eight thousand people who did not understand the words of most of his songs but who felt the soul of his music”-. And what a soul, as they left the stadium, sighs carried Fitzgerald back home. The harmonies of his voice became part of the Mexican musical legend, which dyes houses in blue and purple every time a Fitzgerald LP is played again.