Object of the Week: “Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and their Show” Poster

Poster – Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and their Show
Seton Hall University, 1966
Student Life Vertical Files – Arts & Music, Music Programs 1949 – 1987
Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections



            On the evening of Saturday October 22, 1966, jazz giants Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performed at Seton Hall University’s Student Center.[1]  Fitzgerald, one of America’s pre-eminent jazz vocalists, was widely recognized for her versatility, but especially for her scat singing style which she explains as:  “I just tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing.”[2]  Scatting is an improvised vocal style incorporating exuberant outbursts in play with the musicians.[3]  Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was a distinguished composer, pianist and band leader whose career, like Fitzgerald’s, spanned more than six decades.  He was noted for his inventive use of the orchestra.[4]   Ellington, a known perfectionist with a theatrical stage presence and flair for fashion, insisted on playing the accompaniments to Fitzgerald flawlessly.  His admiration for Fitzgerald is evinced in his humble quip, “With Ella up-front, you’ve got to play better than your best.”[5]

Ellington and Fitzgerald first met in the mid-1930s when she was performing at Harlem’s legendary Savoy Ballroom.[6]  They began a decades-long friendship that led to numerous collaborations, recording sessions, and performances, including the series of concert dates with a show at Seton Hall University.  In 1956, the duo teamed up in the studio to record Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book.  These landmark sessions were released on vinyl in 1957 and featured musical back-up by Ellington and jazz stars like Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Oscar Peterson, Billy Strayhorn and Johnny Hodges.[7]  The video below of Ella and Duke performing was captured in 1965, just one year prior to their engagement at Seton Hall and shows what audiences might have experienced that Saturday evening in 1966.

Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965.

Today, Seton Hall University continues to recognize and support excellence in this uniquely American art form which was created from a fusion of African and European musical and cultural traditions.[8]  Student groups such as The Seton Hall Jazz Ensemble offer opportunities to rehearse and perform in a variety of styles while the Seton Notes, a co-ed a capella group, performs a diverse repertoire which includes jazz and hip-hop, a musical offshoot of jazz.[9]  The University Arts Council and the College of Communication and the Arts also hosts a popular series of concerts known as their Jazz ‘n the Hall.  This year during Jazz Appreciation Month, Lionel Hampton Big Band performed yet again for Seton Hall University by popular demand, though this time virtually.[10]


The images and materials shown here are but a small part of the vast patrimony available to students, faculty and researchers.  For access to this or other objects in our collections, complete a research request form to set up an appointment or contact us at 973-761-9476. 


[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=B9b-fWBgzVQC&pg=PA300&lpg=PA300&dq=ella+fitzgerald+at+seton+hall+university&source=bl&ots=-b1vh5Y0V1&sig=ACfU3U0R13fHwcY61hqTSI8UKoN__6nFPA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjegc-a1Y3wAhVBM1kFHSexCB4Q6AEwGnoECA4QAw#v=onepage&q=ella%20fitzgerald%20at%20seton%20hall%20university&f=false\, accessed 4/22/2021.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Fitzgerald#cite_note-cnn-19, accessed 4/22/2021.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scat_singing, accessed 4/27/2021.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Ellington, accessed 4/27/2021.

[5] https://www.jazziz.com/ella-fitzgerald-duke-ellington-story-friendship/, accessed 4/27/2021.

[6] https://www.jazziz.com/ella-fitzgerald-duke-ellington-story-friendship/, accessed 4/22/2021.

[7] https://www.amazon.com/Ella-Fitzgerald-Sings-Ellington-Songbook/dp/B00000HYIC, accessed 4/27/2021.

[8] https://collegian.csufresno.edu/2011/11/jazz-america%E2%80%99s-original-art-form/#.YIhoFLVKhPY, accessed 4/27/2021.

[9] https://jazztimes.com/archives/where-jazz-meets-hip-hop/, accessed 4/27/2021.

[10] https://www.sopacnow.org/events/lionel-hampton-big-band-2021/, accessed 4/27/2021.