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Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Regina Carter and her band to interpret the songs of Ella Fitzgerald Jan. 31 at Schwab

If someone can evoke the sound and spirit of one of the most beloved jazz vocalists of all time—without being a singer herself—it’s Regina Carter. The jazz violinist will make her sixth appearance on a Penn State stage to honor Ella Fitzgerald in concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in Schwab Auditorium.

Carter’s “Simply Ella” program, a Center for the Performing Arts presentation, will feature music from the “Ella: Accentuate the Positive” album, released in 2017 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Fitzgerald’s birth, plus other selections.

Purchase tickets, which are $38 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student, and $28 for a person 18 and younger. A grant from the University Park Student Fee Board makes Penn State student prices possible.

The violinist grew up in a Detroit home in which music was often playing. “To this very day, whenever I hear an Ella recording it grabs me at my core,” Carter said. “I’m entranced by her voice, her melodic improvisations, and the passion and artfulness with which Ella sings a song. She helps me understand a song by providing a window to its essence.”

The album is a “beguiling tribute” on which Carter “honors Ella Fitzgerald with exceptional warmth and sincerity,” noted a Jazziz critic.

“Violinist Regina Carter is at the top of her art on this fantastic tribute …,” wrote a DownBeat reviewer. “Carter shows she is in full command of her talents from the downbeat of the opening tune, ‘Accentuate the Positive,” a very original take on an old chestnut. … At the heart of this album are tunes so familiar you can see the words floating across the sky as they’re virtually sung with melodic perfection by Carter’s violin.”

Watch a video about the making of Carter’s Fitzgerald tribute album.

Carter studied classical violin at the New England Conservatory of Music before taking a different path.

“When I transferred to Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, I went to the big band director there, Marvin ‘Doc’ Holladay, who played with Dizzy (Gillespie) and many others, and I told him I wanted to play jazz. And he told me to stop listening to the violin players I was listening to and to listen to vocalists and horn players. He said for the phrasing and the breathing,” she recalled in an interview with a reporter for Digital First Media.

“And then I remember meeting the great ‘Big Nick Nicholas,’ and I was playing a tune, a vocal tune … and he said, ‘Do you know the words to that tune? And I said ‘No.’ And he said, ‘I can tell by the way you’re playing it. You must always learn the words.’ And that was such important and vital information. Because if you don’t know the words, then you’re just messing around with a melody.”

Carter will be joined by her band, which includes keyboardist Xavier Davis, bassist Chris Lightcap, guitarist Marvin Sewell and drummer Alvester Garnett. Each of the musicians performed on the “Accentuate the Positive” recording.

“If you get a chance to experience ‘Regina Carter: Simply Ella’ …, then buy your tickets now,” wrote a reviewer for DCMetroTheatreArts.com. “With each song, the quintet started a conversation, with Ms. Carter’s violin leading the way, usually in a whisper, as if to bring the audience closer into the secret, the secret of Ella’s magical tones.”

Patricia Best and Thomas Ray sponsor the concert.