36 Songs, 1 Hour 45 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Many of these earliest Billie Holiday sides were released on Brunswick and Vocalion, important labels that got subsumed by Columbia, so it still makes sense to look at this body of work—some of the greatest recorded jazz in history—as the “Columbia Years.” Holiday was often featured with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra, but also under her own name, sometimes with legendary figures from what would become known as Count Basie’s “Old Testament” period. This package presents a glorious sampling of that young Lady Day, full of swing and interpretive fearlessness, an heir to Louis Armstrong’s rough, improvisatory style but with her own emotional center. And even as a side-person on a date, as critic Gary Giddins has noted, “her contributions never indicate an obligatory vocal refrain of the sort bandleaders included to sell a lyric. Holiday’s choruses are genuine solos.”

And they better be: At any moment, Holiday could be required to follow a fierce Benny Goodman intro, then sing a quick chorus and set the stage for solos by Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson, capped by a Roy Eldridge outro—and that’s just the first track, 1935’s “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” Bassist John Kirby and drummer Cozy Cole often supplied the rhythm. On “I Cried for You,” we hear the great Ellington sidemen Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney (under Wilson’s leadership). On “Summertime,” it’s Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw. On “A Sailboat in the Moonlight,” it’s Lester Young, clarinet master Buster Bailey, and the unparalleled Basie rhythm section (without Basie). On “Sugar,” it’s Benny Carter sparring with Eldridge. The riches are endless (not least of all Young's sumptuous eight-bar clarinet solo on “The Very Thought of You,” from 1938), and again, this is just a sampling. To hear “God Bless the Child,” from 1941, is to understand what scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin meant when she described Holiday as “muse and ancestor, metaphor and myth.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Many of these earliest Billie Holiday sides were released on Brunswick and Vocalion, important labels that got subsumed by Columbia, so it still makes sense to look at this body of work—some of the greatest recorded jazz in history—as the “Columbia Years.” Holiday was often featured with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra, but also under her own name, sometimes with legendary figures from what would become known as Count Basie’s “Old Testament” period. This package presents a glorious sampling of that young Lady Day, full of swing and interpretive fearlessness, an heir to Louis Armstrong’s rough, improvisatory style but with her own emotional center. And even as a side-person on a date, as critic Gary Giddins has noted, “her contributions never indicate an obligatory vocal refrain of the sort bandleaders included to sell a lyric. Holiday’s choruses are genuine solos.”

And they better be: At any moment, Holiday could be required to follow a fierce Benny Goodman intro, then sing a quick chorus and set the stage for solos by Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson, capped by a Roy Eldridge outro—and that’s just the first track, 1935’s “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” Bassist John Kirby and drummer Cozy Cole often supplied the rhythm. On “I Cried for You,” we hear the great Ellington sidemen Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney (under Wilson’s leadership). On “Summertime,” it’s Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw. On “A Sailboat in the Moonlight,” it’s Lester Young, clarinet master Buster Bailey, and the unparalleled Basie rhythm section (without Basie). On “Sugar,” it’s Benny Carter sparring with Eldridge. The riches are endless (not least of all Young's sumptuous eight-bar clarinet solo on “The Very Thought of You,” from 1938), and again, this is just a sampling. To hear “God Bless the Child,” from 1941, is to understand what scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin meant when she described Holiday as “muse and ancestor, metaphor and myth.”

TITLE TIME

More By Billie Holiday

You May Also Like