The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is delighted to present the Ella Fitzgerald Award to Erykah Badu, for her extraordinary contribution to contemporary vocal jazz. The award will be presented to her by Laurent Saulnier, vice-president of programming of the Festival, and Marie Hélène Poitras, journalist and author, tonight at 11 p.m. during a press conference in the Place des Arts’ Salon vert (Green Room) after her concert in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier (Événements spéciaux TD series).
Erykah Badu is the 17th winner of the Ella Fitzgerald Award. The Festival created the award for its 20th anniversary in 1999, annually conferring it upon a jazz singer of significant talent who has had a major impact and influence in the international scene.
One of the leading artists who has shaped the landscape of contemporary R&B, Erykah Badu earned the title “Queen of Neo-soul” powered by her aura and her extraordinary interpretive talents. One of the ranking artists at Motown, she has inherited a slew of soul, funk and jazz vocal influences, drawing comparisons with Billie Holiday for her timbre while also establishing herself as pioneer who knocks down genre boundaries. It is undoubtedly that gentle and voluptuous voice that has established a musical signature known for its delicacy and refinement. Discovered in 1994 by Kedar Massenburg at the SXSW festival, with a demo in hand, the singer singed with his label, which would soon partner with Motown/Universal. She made her stage debut opening shows for D’Angelo before making her own dazzling entry into the charts in 1997 with Baduizm, a first album that revamped soul music with hip-hop rhythms, jazzy inflections and a muscular groove. Propelled by hit single On & On, the album was certified triple platinum and won a pair of Grammys (Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Album). Revealing herself to be as prolific as she is inspired, the singer-songwriter repeated the feat with her 2nd studio album, Mama’s Gun, in 2000, certified platinum two months after its release and dominating the R&B charts with hits Bag Lady and Green Eyes. In 2003, she continued in a more experimental vein with Worldwide Underground, launched her own label, Control FreaQ, in 2005, and landed studio album New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War in 2008, followed in 2010 by Part Two: Return Of The Ankh. To complete the tableau, we point to her committed, activist side, notably as the head of non-profit group B.L.I.N.D. (Beautiful Love Incorporated Non-Profit Development). This year, the famed singer visits us for the very first time in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, tonight at 7:30 p.m. (Événements spéciaux TD series).
In accepting the prize, Erykah Badu will be following previous Ella Fitzgerald prizewinners Diana Ross (2014), Holly Cole (2013), Liza Minnelli (2012), Sade (2011), The Manhattan Transfer (2010), John Pizzarelli (2009), Aretha Franklin (2008), Harry Connick, Jr., (2007), Etta James (2006), Al Jarreau (2005) Tony Bennett (2004), Bobby McFerrin (2003), Dianne Reeves (2002), Diana Krall (2001), Dee Dee Bridgewater (2000) and Diane Schuur (1999).