May 19, 2024

Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald: Claudia Gomez’s Lullaby in Birdland Arrives October 21

American jazz aficionados instinctively know that a satisfying performance of a signature classic – as (for example) by the ever-elegant Ella Fitzgerald – must combine clarity, pitch, purity, control, range, richness, understatement and sincerity.

However: Nobody will ever sing like Ella again (she died in 1996 at age 79). Even some contemporaries — such as Frank Sinatra — wisely refused to tread on her American-Songbook-themed albums, as that would be like trampling on orchids.

So, no comparisons possible. Or maybe yes, but in a different way?

Which brings us to Medellin (the ornithological Birdland). But also to Ella Fitzgerald, to the 1940s-1950s Manhattan dreamland, to the Savoy, to Charlie Parker’s Birdland.

Incongruous. Hard to imagine.

Unless you close your eyes, and lend your ears to a troubadour who doesn’t sound anything like Ella, and of course can’t get all the way to her heaven, but still can get you to climb aboard the A Train — with clarity, pitch, purity, scat, whisper-trailed vibrato, softly suggestive of Brazilian jazz vocalist Gal Costa, and eyes-closed, heaven-seeking sincerity.

Hear those rails-a-thrummin’?

Somewhere over the rainbow, it’s Medellin-born jazz vocalist Claudia Gomez (see:, a globe-trotting paisa who has performed at some of the world’s top jazz venues (including the Monterey Jazz Festival), composed numerous songs in various genres (inspired by numerous lands), and at long last has found her way – backward and forward in time– to Ella, and to Medellin.

An attentive, appreciative, Ella-Fitzgerald-loving audience in the times-past paraninfo of Medellin’s Edificio San Ignacio — in appropriately run-down downtown — heard Claudia’s time-traveling, dream-inspiring salute to Ella in an October 10 concert, flawlessly accompanied by Medellin jazz pianist Juan David Lopera.

But don’t worry if you missed that show. Gomez will reprise her tribute to Ella Fitzgerald – this time accompanied by Medellin’s Philharmonic Orchestra — at 5:30 pm Saturday, October 21 at the Uva stage in Medellin’s El Poblado neighborhood. (See: For directions to Uva stage, see:

Eyes closed, snapping fingers, Gomez takes a sentimental journey to Harlem, the Savoy, Birdland, lush-life, Ellington, Gershwin, Dizzy, Cole Porter, Rogers & Hart.

Asked about her musical roots and related world travels, Gomez told Medellin Herald: “I lived in San Francisco for 15 years, and while I made my living playing music there, I did not sing jazz, because I was surrounded by the best singers and players in that genre — and also my compositions were my main work and projection in those years.

“I also sang rock in London in the mid-seventies, and I researched Colombian folk music. So my musical taste is all over the planet.

“I left the Bay Area 19 years ago, went to Spain for four years, and it was there that I timidly started singing jazz, blues.

“I finally am at the point in life where I can sing whatever I like — and I like a lot of different kinds of music. 

“I play guitar and piano. My music heroes are so many! My influences go from Brazilian music, to jazz, to African folkloric music, and all kinds of folk music from Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.

“My heroes: guitarists Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Toninho Horta, Joao Bosco, Guinga. My favorite singers: Ella Fitzgerald, Elis Regina, Leila Pinheiro, Mercedes Sosa, the ‘cantaoras’ of the coasts of Colombia have been a great inspiration to me also. And composers: Joao Bosco, Brazilians, Marta Valdes, Cubans.”

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