Billie Holiday

Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles [$49.98]

by Will Layman

19 November 2007

 

For jazz fans, and fans of American music in general, the early recordings of singer Billie Holiday should already be gospel—essential and cherished source material for the foundational pleasures of all the music that would come later. Without Billie singing “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”, there is no Sinatra, no Ray Charles, no Joni Mitchell, and no Miles Davis. Billie’s singing—indeed her musicianship and understanding of a lead voice’s relation to the band and to the beat—is an international treasure. This four-disc box set contains all the essential music that Holiday recorded between 1935 and 1942. Though the members of the band shift over the sessions and years, the model was established in the early tracks—the singer floats over a small swing group (piano, guitar, bass, drums and several horns playing obbligato, lines and counterpoint) with dramatic, effortless flow. On these sides, Holiday takes the art of Louis Armstrong and transforms it into something new—she personalizes Pops’ elastic, emotional vocal style and brings it a radical subtlety and simplicity. She stamps her crackling vocal sound so thoroughly on these songs that many of them will forever be hers, despite a hundred other singers trying them on for size. This music, this body of 80 short recordings, is the mother lode. [Amazon]

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

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