Album: Porgy & Bess
Written by: George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy
Heyward and Ira Gershwin
Produced by: Norman Granz
‘Summertime’ was originally composed for George Gershwin’s 1935 opera Porgy & Bess. The opera has several songs which have become popular as well-known jazz standards. American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald released her own version of ‘Summertime’ as part of a collaboration with fellow American jazz musician Louis Armstrong, in which they recorded their own interpretations of songs from the opera on their 1959 album titled Porgy & Bess. This arrangement is based on Fitzgerald’s performance of the song, but with some simplifications applied to allow beginner vocalists to focus on Gershwin’s original melody.
Sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, or the Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald was known for her improvisational technique, tone, scat singing and intonation. She recorded many jazz standards throughout her career, including ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ and ‘Cheek to Cheek’. She shared the stage with jazz icons Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and was an active performer for more than five decades.
This arrangement presents the original melody as it was composed; however, it features a more complex accompaniment in a slightly faster tempo, as seen when recorded by singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
You should find a comfortable key where the transition between your chest and head voice sounds smooth and effortless. Aim to articulate the words clearly, and you could experiment with vowel placement as a way of creating a tone and mood which sounds stylistic and expressive. You can choose to follow the score as written, or look to create your own rhythmic and melodic variations. If the latter, be sure to keep the theme, lyrics and outline of the song intact.