Although Billie Holiday’s repertoire covered barely more than a dozen pure blues numbers during the course of her long career from 1933 to 1959, music critics always referred to her as the ‘Lady [who] sings the blues’. And that hasn’t changed to this day. In truth the recordings she made for Columbia in the Thirties and those for Clef/ Verve between 1953 and 1957 were a highly varied mixture of titles from the American songbook and her own compositions.
Her interpretations were a benchmark against which all aspiring singers were measured. Highly expressive, almost visual ballads went hand in hand with Billie Holiday’s life and voice - and only she alone could sing them! Her voice was always embedded in the sound carpet produced by her accompanying musicians: Tony Scott and Paul Quinichette are two names who made their mark on her music in the mid-Fifties, and the rhythm group of Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell and Chico Hamilton is really first class. The trumpeter Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, a long-time friend from the Count Basie Band, sensitively accompanies the singer’s mature voice.
This album in its original cover proves for first time just how great the old Clef recordings by Norman Granz can sound. And surely almost no-one will still possess a well-preserved copy (with lyrics!) of MGC-721 on their shelf …
Recording: September 1954 in Los Angeles and June 1956 in New York City
Production: Norman Granz