It was a moment to remember at the Kennedy Center Saturday night when Ella Fitzgerald returned to the stage at concert's end for two encore numbers, both in response to standing ovations by the entire sold-out house. Those spontaneous eruptions celebrated Fitzgerald's buoyant swing and high spirits, her identity for the 4 1/2 decades since she sang with the great Chick Webb band.
Supported to perfection by the Paul Smith Trio in the opening set, she glided through "Night and Day," swaggered in stop-time on "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," and whispered a gentle "God Bless the Child." On "Ipanema," she began with rhythmic columns of air and falsetto pings over pianist Smith's jangling chords. For "Manatecca," she was an entire Latin band before she finished her scattered rendition of the Dizzy Gillespie classic.
After intermission, guitarist Joe Pass, on stage alone, offered several velvet-smooth ballards and then dug deep into a blues that had its roots in the Delta. Fitzgerald paired up with Pass for some warm Ellingtoniana and then Smith, bassist Keter Betts and drummer Bobby Durham joined them for a fireworks display on "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing."