Essential: absolutely necessary; extremely important.

Recently I organized my CD’s and realized that I had three Ella Fitzgerald recordings that I had not played for a while. After binging on Ella for several hours I decided to post a list of five of my all-time favorite pop singers, including European cabaret artists and folk singers. Here they are, in random order:

ELLA FITZGERALD – She had a honeyed voice that can caress up in the soprano range and down in the alto octave. In addition she phrased like an instrumentalist and paired that to a command of technical issues such as breath control, dazzling flexibility, flawless intonation, perfect diction, and what in Italian is called legato: a way of connecting note to note seamlessly. In other words: a supreme artist, about whom Ira Gershwin wrote: “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.”(296) Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” – YouTube (296) Ella Fitzgerald “Someone to Watch Over Me” – YouTube

AMALIA RODRIGUES –   Amália da Piedade Rebordão Rodrigues was known worldwide simply as Amália. She was an original who sang almost exclusively in her native Portuguese, giving voice to fados – a kind of song that variously expresses sadness, joy, melancholy, passion and the Portuguese saudade, a word that can all in one mean all of those emotions. Her plangent, at times raucous sound could turn into an instrument that often needed no words to reach the heart of the listener of any country. (296) Ai Mouraria – YouTube (296) Gaivota – YouTube (296) Uma casa portuguesa – YouTube

EDITH PIAF – She sang torch songs about love, heartbreak, and disillusionment in an unmistakably emotional way. She was a tiny woman with a large voice. The French cabaret owner who helped kick off her career nicknamed her La Môme Piaf (the little sparrow, in Parisian slang. In spite of having a career interrupted by car accidents, health issues, addiction, broken marriages, and troubled personal and professional relationships, she rose to become the biggest French singing star ever. (296) Edith Piaf – Non, Je ne regrette rien – YouTube (296) Edith Piaf – La Vie En Rose – YouTube

MEL TORMÉ – He was an accomplished all-around musician, arranger, pianist, and drummer. He sang all kinds of music – except for Rock, which he loathed – in all kind of settings: on the radio, on television, on film. But it was as a cabaret jazz singer who had the ability to spin a perfectly phrased melody and then scat like no other male vocalist ever that he made his mark. Gospel singer Ethel Waters said about him “”Tormé is the only white man who sings with the soul of a black man.”(296) Mel Tormé – Lulu’s Back In Town. 1967 . – YouTube (296) Mel Tormé-Blue Moon – YouTube

JUDY COLLINS – Like good wine, Judy Collins voice has aged well. At the age of 82, her sound remains fresh and her artistry as good as ever. Hers is a voice that comfortably embraces show tunes by Stephen Sondheim, folk songs by Pete Seeger, her own songs, and even now and then a classical song. Unencumbered by mannerisms, her pop soprano sound and her exemplary diction have made her a favorite of many. (296) Judy Collins – Both Sides Now (Official Audio) – YouTube (296) Judy Collins – Send In The Clowns – YouTube

Rafael de Acha