Simone Craddock returns to the Fringe with a tribute to jazz legends Ella FitzGerald and Louis Armstrong, after last year winning the Music & Musicals Award for Nina, Love Simone.
Teaming up again with pianist Adrian Galante, she is also joined by trumpet player Adam Hall at The Ellington jazz club and Government House Ballroom.
“It’s interesting that Nina, Ella and Louis are all considered jazz artists but they couldn’t be further apart in style,” Craddock says.
“In fact, Nina once said if she was any kind of singer she was a folk singer but really, she considered herself a pianist first.
“Louis and Ella are in my mind the very definition of jazz. Their virtuosity and their charm speaks to every generation. Certainly the Great American Songbook from which so much of their repertoire was drawn, contains some of the best-written songs of all time. Beautiful melodies and clever lyrics, we’re still singing them today and probably always will be.”
Separately, Craddock is reviving her West End show, Birth of the Blues, at the State Theatre Centre, and Nina, Love Simone, at The Ellington.
“My favourite music is jazz and blues, it’s in everything I do,” she says. “I fell in love with it when I was in New Orleans back in 2005 so really, I came to it later than most. I was busy pursuing an acting career before that.
“The blues music I sing is steeped in history, shaped by incredible characters and fascinating stories. I’m drawn to artists whose lives and times are as interesting as their music.”
In the Black Lives Matter era, the question of appropriation arises: can white artists sing the blues?
“The only person who confronted me repeatedly on this issue, was me,” Craddock says.
“I’d wanted to write this show for years but wasn’t sure it was my place to. Ella Fitzgerald once said, ‘Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong’.
“In the end I just had to trust that if my intentions were good, the outcome would be too. I wrote my idol a love letter but held myself accountable every step of the way. I came from a place of advocacy, not appropriation. I avoided lyrics that were inappropriate for a white woman but I did not avoid the issue of racism.
“The BLM movement of 2020 called on white people to call out everyday racism, to educate ourselves and to be allies. I wrote Nina, Love Simone before the events of 2020 unfurled, but Nina’s music and message has sadly proven to be as relevant as ever and it’s up to all of us to put that right.”
Serious questions aside, Ella & Louis promises simply great music.
“We decided to add Dream a Little Dream of Me from the Decca recordings,” Craddock says.
“During a hectic rehearsal, we played the original track for reference and it’s hard to describe the magic that suddenly filled the room. Everything slowed down and all three of us had the same dreamy smile on our faces.
“We don’t just love this music, we’re in love with it. It’s a dream come true to recreate these beautiful harmonies that Ella and Louis gave us. I hope we can evoke that same feeling of pure bliss for our audiences this weekend!”
For Birth of the Blues, transferring from London’s West End is a milestone
“That’s a career tick right there!” Craddock says.
“ Content-wise, I’m loving a new arrangement of an old spiritual were working on called Wade in the Water. It was used as a secret code on the underground railway, which is how enslaved African Americans escaped and fled to the North. I’ll be talking about some of the unsung heroes of that movement.”
Craddock is joined again by Galante at the piano, Nick Abbey on double bass and Daniel Susnjar on drums — all regulars around Perth’s jazz scene.
“I hope people will leave my shows feeling inspired by the stories and uplifted by the music!” Craddock says.
“Fringe Festival is a wonderful time for our city. Perth really comes alive! The standard of talent here in Perth is world-class. After 20 years in London, I feel very grateful to be a part of it.”
Ella & Louis! Simone Craddock and Adam Hall, with Adrian Galante, at The Ellington, January 15, 6.30pm, January 16 and 17, 4.30pm and 6.30pm.https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/ella-louis-simone-craddock-adam-hall-ft-adrian-galante-fw2021.
Birth of the Blues! Simone Craddock, with Adrian Galante, Nick Abbey and Daniel Susnjar, at State Theatre Centre of WA, The Courtyard, January 22 and 23, 7.30pm. https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/birth-of-the-blues-simone-craddock-combo-fw2021
Nina, Love Simone — Simone Craddock, with Adrian Galante, at The Ellington, January 27-29, 6.30pm, and January 30 and 31, 4.30pm and 6.30pm. https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/nina-love-simone-simone-craddock-adrian-galante-fw2021
The Government House Ballroom date has sold out. Other dates have limited availability.