Freda Payne to Perform “A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald” at Iridium on Mother’s Day Weekend

This Mother’s Day weekend, The Iridium will host a special performance by Grammy-nominated R&B vocalist Freda Payne. On Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14 her show will feature ‘A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald’ in celebration of what would have been Lady Ella’s 100th birthday. Freda Payne grew up in Detroit, home of the Motown sound, and while her biggest hit record “Band of Gold” was written by that label’s legendary team of Holland/Dozier/Holland and she her sister Scherrie became one of The Supremes,  Freda actually began her recording career as a jazz artist.  Later she gravitated to R&B, also making disco recordings, and in more recent years returned to her jazz roots, singing standards and putting new spins on classic songs.  Admiring the great jazz vocalists who came before her, she started focusing on Ella before the centenary, also having a Billie Holiday salute on her résumé. Her many recordings range from her memorable Vietnam era plea— the hit single”Bring the Boys Home” — to a live in-concert recording, plus a Christmas album, a 2011 duet with Britain’s longtime rocker Cliff Richard (with whom she toured the UK),  to a parody of the sugary presence of a certain purple dinosaur, The (Unauthorized) I Hate Barney Songbook.  

Her film credits include Private Obsession (1995), Ragdoll (1999), Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000), and Fire & Ice (made-for-TV, 2001). Early theatre experience came on Broadway when she was chosen to be part of the Tony Award-winning musical Hallelujah, Baby! and was the understudy for leading lady Leslie Uggams.  Later, she shared the stage with Sammy Davis, Jr. for his Broadway concert presentation.  Most recently she starred in the theater production Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song.

TV has also called to Ms. Payne, who frequented the talk and variety shows, and she hosted her own talk show for a time, too.  But it’s in her in-person nightclub work that audiences can really get the Freda fireworks treatment of timeless songs.  At the original New York City Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency, she did a stage-sharing double act with Darlene Love, cutely titled–what else?— Love and Payne.  She’s been crisscrossing the country with the Ella tribute and her eclectic And Evening with Freda Payne concert act.  In June, she’ll be stopping in St. Louis to pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award. Other upcoming events at the Women’s Jazz Festival and concerts back where it all started —- in Michigan, to do concerts and to be inducted into The Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. Her appearance at The Iridium is a return visit.

Freda’s son, Gregory, was born on her own birthday, September 19.


About Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald had a long and celebrated career as a huge jazz vocalist star who could scat, improvise with superstar instrumentalists, many of whom she recorded with over the many years of a career that is one of the most prolific and successful of all singers.  Among jazz artists, her work was often especially accessible to general audiences, with her warm sound, attractive arrangements, and her numerous albums dedicated to the major writers of The Great American Songbook— the massive set of songs by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart and others, among them Duke Ellington who participated in that project and did other live work with her, some luckily preserved on disc, as were many of her concerts from different places in the world, including a legendary event where she had to make up the forgotten words to “Mack the Knife,” which became a hit record.   She began in her teens, entering the famous amateur contest at Harlem’s Apollo, and the attention began.  Soon, she was working and recording with the Chick Webb Orchestra, taking over as leader when he passed away, and stardom and popularity came quickly and lasted.  Her manager, Norman Granz, also the head of the Verve record label she did some of her most iconic work on (following her early releases on Decca) booked her all over the world, and festival appearances were numerous, such as the famed Jazz at the Philharmonic.  She was married for some years to star bassist Ray Brown and they adopted a son named as Ray Jr.  Although she died 21 years ago, her great legacy continues to inspire, her records continue to be played on radio stations and sell, and previously unissued tracks continue to appear.  She sang everything from novelty songs to the Beatles and was a beloved figure.  The 100th anniversary of her birth this April has been celebrated in a large number of tributes by the musicians and singers for whom she has been an inspiration and role model.

Tickets for Freda Payne on May 13 (early show at 8:30 pm; late show at 10:30 pm) and May 14 (one show at 7:30 pm) are available on TicketWeb via, or The Iridium box office located at 1650 Broadway at 51 Street, 212.582.2121.

About The Iridium
The Iridium and its legacy as “The Home of Les Paul” have established the audiophile venue as a musical landmark in New York City, known as a destination for intimately experiencing the best jazz, blues, and rock artists in the world. Over the last 20 years, The Iridium has built up a reputation for attracting iconic instrumentalists and vocalists seven nights a week and, as a result, has grown in the diversity of its music offerings as emerging songwriters seek to join in the room’s rich history of music discovery. Among the superstar acts that have graced The Iridium stage: are Les Paul, who played there weekly for more than 14 years, until his passing in 2009; Jeff Beck; Steve Miller; Buddy Guy; Joe Walsh; Zakk Wylde; Joe Satriani; The Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor and Charlie Watts; Max Roach; and Michael Brecker, among many others. Today, in addition to its consistent draw of legendary rock guitarists and jazz and blues musicians, The Iridium regularly showcases next generation talent spanning a variety of genres including folk, indie pop, alt rock, R&B, cabaret and world music, as a host to Front and Center, public television’s critically acclaimed series, and MTV Live Setlist, a new monthly music series.

The “Father of the Electric Guitar,” Les Paul, is revered as a pioneer in electric guitars and music recording, having designed the sound system The Iridium uses to this day. This influence has led to The Iridium becoming one of the only NYC concert venues to double as a live recording studio boasting its own music label – IridiumLive. Since 2011, notable releases on the IridiumLive label have included Grammy-winning guitarist Albert Lee’s Live at The Iridium and Les Paul Trio and Friends: A Jazz Tribute to Les featuring Les Paul’s band performing with special guests Nels Cline of Wilco, jazz guitar legend Stanley Jordan, Jane Monheit, and Bucky Pizzarelli. Jeff Beck’s Grammy-nominated Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul is also among the historic recordings at The Iridium.