Billie Holiday: God Bless The Child: The Very Best Of Billie Holiday & Masters of Jazz


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Billie Holiday began singing professionally in the early 1930s and toured and recorded until her death in 1959. Her only hiatus from performing came during a 10-month stay at the Federal Woman's Reformatory in Alederton, West Virginia for drug possession in 1947. Her story reveals the symbiosis between personal pain and early jazz, and that story is best told through her recordings. Two reissues from the early and middle portions of her career show both the gradual demise of her singing ability and a descent into self-revelation so painful that all questions of ability are silenced.

Billie Holiday
God Bless The Child: The Very Best Of Billie Holiday

God Bless The Child is a 14-cut compilation of the singer's studio work for Columbia Records from 1935 to 1942, when she was 20 to 27. Her voice is bright and smiling and the arrangements (most played by Teddy Wilson and his orchestra) are perky and swinging. Even "My Man , which later became one of her most anguished signature songs, appears at an optimistic mid-tempo. Among the notable sidemen are saxophonist Lester Young (who forged a life-long friendship with Holiday) on "Easy Living ; future bandleaders Benny Goodman on "I Wished On The Moon and Artie Shaw on "Billie's Blues ; and saxophonist Ben Webster on several tunes. The performances mark the auspicious beginning of a formidable jazz talent.

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday

By the last of the 28 cuts on Masters of Jazz, the singer's physical decline is evident. But these live performances, recorded from 1944 to 1951 in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, are compelling in their emotional intensity; the light-hearted tunes and girlish timbre have disappeared almost completely by the 1949 shows. Storyville wisely presents the Holiday material in chronological order and includes duplicate versions of some tunes, like "Miss Brown To You and "Lover Man. For most of the shows Holiday performs in small groups with players such as Art Tatum (piano) and Stan Getz and Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax); one of the most gut-wrenching moments is Holiday's heavy rendition of "Strange Fruit , voice and piano only, recorded at the Storyville Club in Boston in late 1951. The quality of the recordings is sometimes poor - "many of the original sources were private tapes, acetates transcriptions, or other media not in pristine condition, reads the inside back cover. When it comes to Holiday, however, pristine is neither expected nor necessary.

Tracks and Personnel

God Bless The Child: The Very Best Of Billie Holiday

Tracks: God Bless The Child; I Wished On The Moon; What A Little Moonlight Can Do; Miss Brown To You; I Cried For You; Billie's Blues; Easy Living; My Man; Some Other Spring; Them There Eyes; Body And Soul; Solitude; I Cover The Waterfront; Gloomy Sunday.

Personnel: Billie Holiday: voice; Roy Eldridge: trumpet; Ernie Powell: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Eddie Heywood: piano; Paul Chapman: guitar; Grachan Moncur: bass; Herbert Cowans: drums; Bennie Goodman: clarinet; Ben Webster: tenor saxophone; Teddy Wilson: piano; John Truehart: guitar; John Kirby: bass; Cozy Cole: drums; Jonah Jones: trumpet; Johnny Hodges: alto saxophone; Harry Carney: clarinet, baritone saxophone; Lawrence Lucie: guitar; Bunny Berigan, trumpet; Artie Shaw, clarinet; Joe Bushkin, piano; Dick McDonough, guitar; Pete Peterson, bass; Buck Clayton: trumpet; Buster Bailey: clarinet; Lester Young: tenor saxophone; Freddie Green: guitar; Walter Page: bass; Jo Jone: drums.

Masters of Jazz

Tracks: Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me; I'll Get By; Billie's Blues; All Of Me; The Man I Love; You Better Go Now; Miss Brown To You; Lover Man; I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone; I Love My Man; You Ain't Gonna Bother Me No More; Good Morning Heartache; You're Driving Me Crazy; Maybe You'll Be There; Billie's Blues; Lover Man; Them There Eyes; My Man; I Cover The Waterfront; Crazy He Calls Me; Lover Come Back To Me; Detour Ahead; Strange Fruit; You're Driving Me Crazy; Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do; All Of Me; I Loves You Porgy; Miss Brown To You.

Personnel: Billie Holiday: voice; Roy Eldridge: trumpet; Barney Bigard: clarinet; Coleman Hawkins: tenor saxophone; Jack Teagarden: trombone; Art Tatum: piano; Al Casey: guitar; Oscar Pettiford: bass; Sid Catlett: drums; Hot Lips Page: trumpet; Teddy Wilson: piano; Neal Hefti: trumpet; Herbie Harper: trumpet; Herbie Stewart: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Red Norvo: vibes; Jimmy Rowles: piano; Iggy Shevak: bass; Blinkie Garner: drums; Buster Harding: piano; John Fields: bass; Marquis Foster: drums; Stan Getz: tenor saxophone.

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