New York City, 1958. A dingy but charming dive bar with no certainty which side of midnight we are on. Musicians all over town are on the lookout for somewhere to put their feet up and grab a bite to eat after their late night gigs. Billie Holiday, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald all walk into the bar. It begins like a bad joke, but all three icons leave the night touched by a poignant realisation.
“Ella has been such an inspiration, not specifically to my songwriting, but how I feel a song.” Up and coming Melbourne singer-songwriter Satta is open about the connection she feels to Ella Fitzgerald, as she prepares to take on the challenge and joy of playing the so-called First Lady of Song in a new production for Melbourne Fringe at The Butterfly Club from 23 September 2015.
“My hope is that people connect to my lyrics and can relate in some way and reflect back on experiences they’ve had and feel like they’re not completely alone or that someone understands their point of view,” says Satta. “My songs are personal and intimate… Ella taught me what it’s like to put feeling into a song and simply be lost in it, but also enjoy it!”
Beginning her life on the stage at fourteen, Satta feels that music has power to communicate. That enjoyment is key to the whirlwind of performing, because just like Ella herself, Satta grew up with terrible stage fright. Despite this, and in a similar trajectory to Ella, Satta soon found herself as the leader of her two bands, the formerly active Red Ribbon and the currently active Twisted Ties.
“I feel I’ve had similar experiences to Ella in terms of being a kind of bandleader. Whilst Chick Webb’s passing allowed Ella to lead the orchestra, I’ve initiated both my bands, seeking out musicians and being a driving force of organisation and structure, sometimes acting as a sort of manager.”
Whilst performing is her ‘happy place’, Satta admits the task of portraying Ella Fitzgerald is daunting. “She is one of my inspirations, such an incredible vocalist and beloved across generations… The thought of playing her is overwhelming, but I’m up for the challenge.”
“I’m going to do her justice, so help my ‘brown and yellow basket’ … I’ve always wanted to sing Ella’s songs, and have had opportunities to in the past that just didn’t work out… but getting to play her is just – well, to quote the lady herself, s’wonderful!”
Sophisticated Lady is devised and performed by Mama Alto as Billie Holiday; Ilana Charnelle as Judy Garland; Satta as Ella Fitzgerald and Miss Chief (Tiffanni Walton) on piano.
Sophisticated Lady: A Nightcap with Billie, Judy & Ella
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: 23 – 27 September 2015 – 8.30pm
Hares & Hyenas, 63 Johnstone Street, Fitzroy
Performance: Tuesday 29 September 2015 – 8.30pm
Note: Auslan interpreted and mobility aid accessible performance
For more information, visit: www.mamaalto.com for details.
Image: Sophisticated Lady – photo by Sarah Walker