Singer Tina May and pianist Brian Kellock bring the songs from one of the most iconic musical meetings ever to Jazz at the Merchants House of Glasgow in West George Street on Sunday 15 March when they present their popular Ella & Oscar show.
Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson were on top of the jazz world when they recorded the Ella & Oscar album in May 1975 and despite sharing the same management for many years, they never produced a second recording together.
“It’s one of the great mysteries why Norman Granz, who looked after Ella and Oscar and supervised thousands of recordings, didn’t get these two jazz greats back into a studio,” says May, who first toured Ella & Oscar with Kellock in 2017 to mark Fitzgerald’s centenary. “They appeared together onstage many times but there’s just that one album, which makes it all the more special.”
Gloucestershire-born May has worked with some of the biggest names in jazz herself since turning professional in the 1980s. Her first band, which she formed as a student in Paris (she speaks French fluently) included the former Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis drummer Kenny Clarke, who was then resident in France, and she went on to record with the pianist Ray Bryant, one-time accompanist to Aretha Franklin, in the legendary Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey.
Her association with Brian Kellock dates back to a jam session at the late-night club when they were both appearing at Glasgow Jazz Festival in the early 1990s.
“Brian was clearly a brilliant musician but it was also his generosity as an accompanist that struck me,” says May. “He has this encyclopaedic knowledge of the jazz repertoire and he shares it with such good humour. For a singer he’s a delight to work with.”
The Ella & Oscar show includes songs such as Midnight Sun and More Than You Know and May describes the album that inspired it as a masterclass.
“It represents a high-water mark as far as song writing goes,” she says. “Plus the singing and piano playing are as good as it gets. We don’t try to copy Ella and Oscar – nobody could – but we want to bring the songs alive spontaneously in our own way, which is what jazz is all about really – making music in the moment and having fun doing it.”
* Ella & Oscar: Tina May and Brian Kellock, Jazz at the Merchants House, Sunday March 15. Tickets available here.