Pianist Ran Blake and vocalist Christine Correa have recorded several duo albums together including two on the music of Abbey Lincoln. Here they turn to another iconic singer, Billie Holiday, concentrating on the contents of her final album, Lady In Satin (Columbia, 1958).
Lady In Satin is known for its lush orchestral and choral arrangements by Ray Ellis. This 2020 version is stripped down to a bare bones pairing of voice and piano. Correa's singing is raw and stark with a rough grain analogous to the raspiness in Holiday's voice on the original album. She twists the songs' melodies with a wide range of volumes and tones in the style of singers like Patty Waters and Blake's first duet partner, Jeanne Lee. Her voice changes with startling effect on tracks like "I Get Along Without You Very Well" and "It's Easy To Remember," shifting from a floating croon to a siren wail while Blake strolls and stumbles in slow motion behind her.
For the most part Ran Blake plays with his customary blend of ominous rumbles and jagged chords but also keeps the melody in view more than usual. On "You've Changed" and "The End of a Love Affair" he slips into a more soothing romantic mood leaving the heavy dramatic lifting to Correa. There is even a touch of humor to "I'll Be Around" as mischievous piano chords mix with Correa's swoony, delirious singing.
All twelve songs on Holiday's album are played here but there are also a few appropriate extras. Correa recites Frank O'Hara's poem "The Day Lady Died" in a posh English accent over brooding piano accompaniment "Big Stuff," a song Holiday recorded for Verve, is played solo and eerily by Blake and Herbie Nichols' tribute, "Lady Sing The Blues," is sung with searing force over strummed piano strings.
This project has a world-weary, late night feeling that seems more a meditation on Holiday's life and career than just a replication of one album. Ran Blake's spectral piano and Christine Correa's emotional singing bring a haunting blend of light and dark to this material that reflects poignantly on the the legacy of Billie Holiday.
I'm A Fool To Want You; For Heaven's Sake; The Day Lady Died; You've Changed; You Don't Know What Love
Is; The End Of A Love Affair; For All We Know; Big Stuff; I Get Along Without You Very Well; Violets For Your
Furs; Lady Sings The Blues; But Beautiful; Glad To Be Unhappy; I'll Be Around; It's Easy To Remember.
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