The mesmerizing talent of Erykah Badu is something to be celebrated every day of the year, but Monday night saw the R&B queen receiving very special honors in the name of one of jazz’s greatest vocalists. Badu was presented with the 17th annual Ella Fitzgerald Award at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal Monday. In receiving the award, Badu joins the ranks of Diana Ross, Sade, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Tony Bennet, Bobby McFerrin, Diana Krall and many more legends of soul, jazz and rhythm & blues.
Badu performed Monday night at the Montreal jazz fest, turning out performance that was, in the words of the local press, a top-notch display of her talents in “championship form.” Near the end of her set, Badu was presented with the award (which celebrates “an artist that had tremendous influence and the vocal hard of jazz and R&B”) on-stage by the festival’s co-founder Alain Simard, but the honors had actually been bestowed upon her hours earlier at a press conference.
“I am so honored, and I hope that Ella hears my voice and my song, Badu said, “because she is one of my greatest influences.” At the press conference that followed her language was deeply reverent and humble. “I just still feel like a little girl from south Dallas; that I have not done anything yet.” But when it came to praising Fitzgerald, Badu’s words were bold and resolute. “How can I be compared to such a voice, such a frequency. And the way she makes me feel is the way I wish to make people feel, and if I am doing that, then I am very, very grateful. I do not take it for granted.”
Watch both the award presentation and extended press conference below, and if you haven’t made a point to contemplate the history of hip-hop in the form of Badu’s 17 minute, guests-packed mega jam with The Roots, now’s the time to get up on it.