The eight women we chose to honor in this season of Turning the Tables were skilled singers, writers, instrumental innovators and musical pioneers. But often in the stories of these women’s lives and legacies, their musical skills are obscured by a focus on persona or biography. We also want to highlight their work as musicians and the fundamental musical contributions they made to American popular music.
Ella Fitzgerald is celebrated as one of the most important jazz singers of all time not just for the quality of her voice, but also for her groundbreaking improvisational skills. “Ella could not only sing a melody,” says Jazzmeia Horn, “she could scat the hell out of some chord changes and sound just like an instrumentalist.” Horn is a creative, expressive jazz singer who’s also an impressive improviser. “I like to say that I am continuing the legacy, or the tradition, of vocal improvisation,” Horn says. So we asked her to explain what scat singing is and demonstrate her own twist on Fitzgerald’s trademark skill.