Low’ covers the important years
of Billie Holiday’s colourful yet mostly
tragic career. The range runs from her
first recording with Benny Goodman,
‘Your Mother’s Son In Law,’ made
in 1933 up to ‘Good Morning, Heartache,’
cut in 1946 with Bill Stegmeyer and
his Orchestra. Most of the material
originates from the 1930s and includes
many of Holiday’s ‘classics.’ Of the
fifty tracks twenty-one feature her
with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra and
on another thirteen she is accompanied
by her own orchestra. Both bands include
famous jazz artists such as Lester Young,
Benny Goodman, Ben Webster, Walter Page,
Freddy Green and Claude Thornhill to
name but a few.
Billie Holiday was ‘jazz’s greatest
female vocalist’ is debatable and in
any case doesn’t matter – she was unique
and nobody has successfully managed
to copy her. Having said that she was
undoubtedly a major influence on many
of the memorable female jazz singers.
Although the 1972 film ‘Lady Sings
The Blues’ implied that she was
predominantly a blues singer this is
misleading and a glance down the titles
of ‘Moanin’ Low’ shows that she
could confidently tackle anything asked
of her. As Digby Fairweather commented
"she ecstatically recreated her
songs’ melodies in a small, worldly
voice that, in Barney Josephson’s words,"
"rang like a bell and went a mile."
two tracks recorded live with the Count
Basie Orchestra at the Savoy Ballroom
in 1937 sum up the complete format of
‘Moanin’ Low’ – fine arrangements
and Holiday’s inimitable sense of timing.
Another two engaging tracks are ‘You
Go To My Head’ which also features
Babe Russin on tenor, and ‘Carelessly’
with Harry Carney and Cootie Williams
in the line-up.
is an interesting and well thought out
compilation. Currently there is a revised
interest in Billie Holiday and the album
is sure to be well received even though
all the tracks are in mono. It has an
appeal that should attract not only
the jazz fan but anybody with an interest
in the American Songbook.