Music

Billie Holliday: Remixed and Reimagined

Mark Szakonyi

When the individual producer or remixer’s signature style dwarfs the original source, then the exercise is futile. Fortunately, these remixers know when to turn the bass down for Lady Day.


Billie Holliday

Remixed and Reimagined

Label: Sony Legacy
US Release Date: 2007-08-07
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Die-hard jazz traditionalists who quake with righteous fury when their jazz gods and goddesses receive an electronic upgrade are suggested to stop reading. Yes, we know that Billie Holiday on 78s is true, and those who need hip-hop or house beats underneath don’t really understand or appreciate jazz. For those low-brow listeners (read: open minded), Billie Holiday: Remixed and Reimagined is a respectful and creative approach to the work of one of the 20th Century’s greatest singers.

Remixed jazz projects have gained popularity recently and run the gamut from excellent, such as Verve Remixed, to downright disappointing, such as Jazzanova’s take on the Blue Note catalogue. The Remixed and Reimagined series, which kicked off with an update of Nina Simone’s catalogue, is by far one of the best electronica treatments of classic jazz. It lacks the pulsating momentum that the Verve’s house measures and Blue Note Revisited’s hip-hop beats brought, but the series has a surprising fluidity considering the range of producers/remixers who lend their interpretations.

What will make the album so enthralling for electronica and jazz fans alike is its balance of both styles. Swingsett & Takuya's mid-tempo “I Hear Music” maintains the old-time swing by keeping the trumpet solos the focus and the hip-hop beats secondary. Although strong, many remixes found on Verve and Blue Note compilations immediately strike the listeners as remixes, whereas tracks on this album ring more authentic. The snippets of audience applause and band leader comment lend Jazzem’s “More Than You Know” a live feel. Things get really swinging with Lady Bug Mecca (of Digitable Planets fame) and Roland Richards's reconstruction of “Spreadin’ Rhythmn Around’. Mecca’s singing doesn’t distract, and complements Holliday’s chorus.

Conversely, GTR's dreamy and layered remix of “Long Gone Blues” feels almost too electronic compared to the rest of the album. The strongest remixes are the ones that retain the swing flavor of the original recordings. For instance, Nickodemus and Zeb’s shuffling trumpets with a touch of dub create a haunting jive, which could fit either a senior citizen dancehall or urban lounge.

Organica’s soothing but ultimately lazy reworking of “Summertime” is a far cry from the UFO remix of Sarah Vaughn’s cover. The Organica version is too stripped-down and lacks the menace necessary to make the song mesmerizing. That shimmy of a cosmopolitan lounge is found in Madison Park’s “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away the Key)". Their approach isn’t anything spectacular, but their decision to cut the background music and let Holliday’s voice come through is unique. It says something about the approach to remixing jazz classics in general. When the individual producer or remixer’s signature style dwarfs the original source, then the exercise is futile. Fortunately, these remixers know when to turn the bass down for Lady Day.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.