Moton Museum to Celebrate Jazz Roots

Moton Museum to Celebrate Jazz Roots


Photo: Desiree Roots

Farmville, VA: To celebrate the impending 101st birthday of the legendary Ella Fitzgerald, and the historical and cultural significance of jazz music as a whole, the Robert Russa Moton Museum will be hosting a jazz concert on Saturday, February 24th. The enormously talented Desiree Roots will be performing her tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, featuring a set of some of Ella’s most notable songs and accompanied by highly-acclaimed local jazz musicians. This performance will allow for the audience to take a trip to the past and form a better understanding of jazz music as a cultural movement, as well as introducing the audience to jazz music as a timeless and continually-relevant art form.

With its beginnings in the late 19th Century, and musical origins in the blues and ragtime genres, jazz music is considered “America’s Classical Music”, and became a widely accepted form of self-expression during the so-called Jazz Age of the 1920s. Countless legends of the music industry began their careers performing in the jazz genre, including Louis Armstrong, Nat “King” Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald. In retrospect, jazz music has become a cultural representation of the history and struggles of African-Americans at the time, as well as the demonstration of a newfound and celebrated freedom of expression.

Ella Fitzgerald, born in Newport News, Virginia in 1917, began her musical career as bandleader of Ella and her Famous Orchestra in 1939, and continued recording music with the band until its dissolution in 1942. Afterwards, Ella began her solo singing career, for which she is most well-known. Highly-regarded for the power and purity of her singing voice, Ella also took a great deal of inspiration from fellow jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, specifically from Dizzy’s usage of scat singing, a singing style that emphasizes the improvisational nature of the genre. Ella recorded several albums of jazz standards, including songs originally performed by Duke Ellington and Cole Porter, as well as several albums that blurred the lines between genres. Though she passed away in 1996, Ella Fitzgerald is still hailed as one of the all-time greats in the music industry, and was praised throughout her career by critics and fans alike.

Desiree Roots, a classically-trained singer, actress, and dancer, has been performing for audiences for over 35 years. She received her Bachelor’s degree in music from Virginia Union University, and since graduating has been the opening act for several legends of the entertainment industry, including B.B. King, Bobby Watson, and Shirley Horn. In recent years, Desiree has taken her talents to the stage, portraying Effie White in the Virginia Repertory Theatre production of “Dreamgirls” in 2016. She has also notably paid tribute to one of her idols, Ella Fitzgerald, performing two sets of Ella’s legendary songs for the “Ella at 100” event in 2017.

The Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald will take place at the Moton Museum, located at 900 Griffin Boulevard in Farmville, Virginia. The show will begin at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 24th, and is free and open to the public. For more information, or for a complete calendar of events, please visit http://www.motonmuseum.ord/calendar/.