Swing Time

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things

by George Wolf

Just One of Those Things has plenty of things going for it, but catch it right now, and you can add “timing” to the list.

Really, there’s never a bad time to be swept away by one of music’s all time great voices, but these 90 minutes seem even sweeter right about now.

Director Leslie Woodhead assembles a wealth of performance footage, archived interviews and even some home movies to trace Ella’s rise from reform school and homelessness to concert stages across the globe.

Buoyed by the tender narration from actress Sophie Okonedo, Ella’s story becomes one of happenstance, perseverance and one-of-a-kind talent.

Her original aspiration was to be a dancer, but when other dancers at the Apollo Theater’s amateur night in 1934 were too good, 16 year-old Ella decided to sing. From that night until her death in 1996, she mastered jazz, big band, the great American songbook, and of course, be-bop swing.

In fact, the film’s non-performance highlight is a truly fascinating, nearly clinical deconstruction of the otherworldly ability that made Ella perhaps the greatest “scat” vocalist the world has ever known. Watch and learn, hepcats, it’s amazing.

Though the bulk of the film is given a linear, by-the-numbers presentation, the musical history it recounts is essential. An important and timeless biography, Ella‘s got that swing.

Which, as you may have heard, means a thing or two.


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