“I am most passionate about bringing my knowledge [of tasting] to consumers, “said an enthusiastic Orietta Gianjorio, a native Italian from Rome,...
This young woman wasn’t anything special. In fact, she was the opposite of extraordinary in every way.
Following her parents’ divorce when she was one month old, she moved from Newport News, Virginia to Yonkers, New York with her mother. Her early childhood was spent working to help support her tiny family: she worked as a messenger and acted as a lookout for a local brothel. She dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. Life found her on the streets after her mother passed away and, on a whim, she decided to enter an amateur contest at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, which she won after dazzling the audience with her performance of “Judy” by Hoagy Carmichael. The first place prize was $25.
That contest launched the beginning of a lifelong career, creating one of the most familiar household names in jazz of the 20th century. She would become known as the “First Lady of Song” and “Lady Ella.”
She was the legendary Ella Fitzgerald.
While Lady Ella passed away in 1996, her music continues to inspire and entertain to this day. On April 25 – Ella’s birthday – another entertainer will be bringing Ella’s music to life at San Diego’s Convivio Center in Little Italy.
Patrizia, dubbed as the Sultry Lady of Jazz by her fans, will be performing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on the 50th anniversary of Ella’s “legendary” birthday concert in Rome – “considered the best live performance of her career,” according to Patrizia.
Patrizia fell in love with Ella and her music after her uncle took her to see the famous vocalist in a live performance. “[The show] really, really made an impression,” Patrizia recalls. “It was a bit of hero worship [for me].”
Since then, it has been a goal of hers to do a tribute performance to the singer in some way, although she was unsure how and when she would do that. When she found out that this April 25 would mark Ella’s famous birthday concert – and that it was her actual birthday as well – Patrizia knew she had found her way to pay homage to her musical idol.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, what a coincidence,’” Patrizia says. “’This fits; this is what I need to be doing.”
A resident of San Diego County, Patrizia was born and raised in Denver, Co. While she and her siblings grew up in a time where society frowned upon cultural diversity – “they would get on the parents if you weren’t speaking English at home with your kids,” Patrizia says – her Italian parents made sure they were instilled with a knowledge and pride of their heritage.
“They kept the culture alive and did all the major traditions,” Patrizia says. “And of course I’ve passed those traditions on to my children.”
Music was always a huge presence in Patrizia’s household; indeed her father played the alto sax and her parents would require all their children “to listen, understand and recognize all types of music and their instrumentation.” While music was always a passion for Patrizia, however, her musical career wouldn’t begin until 2004.
“I love doing this and there was a period of time when, you know, my kids were little and I couldn’t do it,” Patrizia says. “It was kind of like, sing here and there and take care of the family, you know, the Italian way…Family comes first. And then after you do that, moms get a break and you get to do something you like to do.”
Patrizia’s musical career was launched at a get-together where she sang with friends. From that performance “on a dare,” she picked up a regular gig at a local restaurant where she was heard by someone from a record label, who invited her to come in and record a demo.
Her first album was released three years after that in 2007.
Since then, Patrizia has been touring for her album but she is returning home for this tribute performance, which will be her first show in San Diego in a long time.
The show will be held at the Convivio Center and begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online at Convivio’s website.