ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — She could sing sweet and sultry, swing and scat.
In Italy, the kids called her Mama Jazz.
Ella Fitzgerald would have been 100 years old in December.
To commemorate the First Lady of Song’s anniversary, the New Mexico Jazz Workshop will present “An Evening of Ella” at the Jewish Community Center with New Mexico’s own Diane Richardson.
Richardson began singing in the stairwell of her parents’ Dallas apartment when she was a little girl. As an adult, this ultimate overachiever boasts an economics degree from the University of Maryland, a music degree from the Boston Conservatory and a doctoral degree in jazz studies/vocal pedagogy from the University of Southern California. The retired assistant voice department chair from the Berklee College of Music lives in Placitas.
“It’s the music that propels me,” she said. “I just needed to keep learning about it.”
Rooted in New Orleans by a family of musicians, she says that for her jazz is genetic. Apart from Ella, her influences include Abbey Lincoln, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.
“Everybody teaches me something,” she said. “I sometimes do my warm-ups to Leon Russell. I’ve been listening to ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ all week.”
The benefit concert will feature Fitzgerald classics such as “Mr. Paganini,” “Take the A-Train,” “How High the Moon,” “Gypsy in My Soul,” “Blue Skies,” “Blues in the Night” and “April in Paris.”
“She is the standard for jazz,” Richardson said. “Her interpretation of the music is textbook. I did a project called ‘Ella in the Classroom’ for teachers. She’s a teacher, particularly for jazz singers. Her interpretation, her articulation, her phrasing, her intonation, her jazz feel is just phenomenal.”