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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BILLIE HOLIDAY

Songs for Distingué Lovers

Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55524

 

 

1. Day In, Day Out
2. A Foggy Day
3. Stars Fell on Alabama
4. One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
5. Just One of Those Things
6. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
7. Body and Soul
8. They Can't Take That Away from Me
9. Darn That Dream
10. Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
11. Comes Love
12. Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You
13. Embraceable You
14. Moonlight in Vermont
15. I Wished on the Moon

Billie Holiday - Vocals
Ben Webster - Tenor sax
Harry "Sweets" Edison - Trumpet
Barney Kessel - Guitar
Jimmy Rowles - Piano
Red Mitchell - Bass
Alvin Stoller - Drums (tracks 1-7, 9, 11, 14, 15)
Larry Bunker - Drums (tracks 8, 10, 12, 13)

 

The rather pretentious title may mislead some potential buyers as to the contents of this album, but be assured that this is Billie Holiday at her finest. The album consists of two LPs: Songs for Distingué Lovers (tracks 1 to 6) and Body and Soul (tracks 7 to 14), both recorded in January 1957. Billie had less than three more years to live, and some critics have suggested that her voice had deteriorated badly by this stage. Certainly her voice had coarsened slightly and become more husky, and her breathing had suffered. Yet Billie still sang with magical poignancy - and the fragility of her voice actually added to the passion with which she sang. She uses the limitations of her voice as an asset, moulding songs with an intimate feeling. She also sings the seldom-heard verses of such songs as I Didn't Know What Time It Was (including the marvellous line "Once I was young, yesterday perhaps").

Producer Norman Granz wisely provided a small jazz group which accompanies her sympathetically. Billie's favourite tenor player was undoubtedly Lester Young, but Ben Webster fills that role superbly. He had accompanied Billie on many recordings, as long ago as a Teddy Wilson session in 1935. Ben's solos are a mixture of moody breathiness and stimulating thrust, and he adds sensitive backings behind Billie's vocals. Harry Edison supplies some equally suitable solos and punctuations: mellow or punchy. Barney Kessell adds some useful introductions and solos, while Jimmy Rowles solos sparingly but effectively.

The whole album is a delight - more than 77 minutes of beauty. Billie still had a catch in her voice which can bring tears to the eyes. And she had a lived-in voice that expresses depths of emotion which most young singers can never match. Musical perfection.

Tony Augarde

www.augardebooks.co.uk



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