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Vocal Jazz - Released December 12, 2006 | Fremeaux Heritage

Distinctions Diapason d'or - Choc Jazzman
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1957 | Verve

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Songs for Distingué Lovers forms part of the last series of extensive small-group recordings that Lady Day would make in the studio. Although her voice was largely shot at this point, she puts so much feeling into the lyrics that it's easy to overlook her dark sound. The band is a major asset, and made up of all-stars: trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, pianist Jimmie Rowles, guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Red Mitchell, and Alvin Stoller or Larry Bunker on drums. There are plenty of short solos for Edison, Webster, and Kessel. Holiday does her best on such numbers as "A Foggy Day," "One for My Baby," "Just One of Those Things," and "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," and there are plenty of haunting moments, even if one could tell (even at the time) that the end was probably drawing near for the singer. [Some reissues add six songs, doubling the original program, including further recordings made during the same January 1957 sessions.] © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released June 1, 1958 | Columbia - Legacy

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Vocal Jazz - Released November 6, 2009 | Verve Reissues

Although many of Billie Holiday's recordings for Commodore and Decca are often overlooked -- at least in comparison to the songs that bookend her career (for Columbia and Verve) -- they include some of her best work, beginning at the end of the '30s with "Strange Fruit" and stretching to the end of the '40s with "God Bless the Child." In 1939, Billie Holiday was a jazz sensation without a hit record. She gained that hit record, and began her journey to musical immortality, when her label Columbia refused to record "Strange Fruit," and jazz fan Milt Gabler welcomed her to his aficionado label, Commodore. Gabler recorded Holiday often over the next ten years, both at Commodore and through his work at Decca in the mid-to late '40s. While on Commodore, Holiday focused on downcast ballads, including "I Cover the Waterfront" and "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" (dubbed "loser" songs by Gabler), but she also excelled with warm and affectionate material too, "Embraceable You" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street." Regardless of the material, her backing consisted of small groups usually led by a pair of saloon-sound maestros: Doc Cheatham on trumpet and Eddie Heywood on piano. That sound was in for a switch when Holiday moved to Decca, however, beginning with another big hit, "Lover Man," a pop ballad with the full crossover treatment -- strings and all. (Gabler had no compunction about false notions of purity, and he happily recorded Holiday with strings and backing choruses whenever the song demanded it.) Even more than her work for Commodore, Holiday's work for Decca was melancholy and resigned in the extreme, with sterling treatments of yet more loser songs: "Don't Explain," "Good Morning Heartache," "You Better Go Now," and "What Is This Thing Called Love." Individually, the songs are excellent, and as a package, The Complete Commodore & Decca Masters can hardly be beat. It's a splendid accompaniment to similar sets devoted to Billie Holiday's Columbia and Verve output, and while completists will bemoan the lack of the many alternate takes -- most of the Commodore sides have two alternate takes for each master recording, available elsewhere -- this is all the war-years Billie Holiday one could hope for. © John Bush /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released December 22, 2014 | BnF Collection

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Vocal Jazz - Released September 29, 1992 | Verve Reissues

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This is a rather incredible collection: ten CDs enclosed in a tight black box that includes every one of the recordings Verve owns of Billie Holiday, not only the many studio recordings of 1952-57 (which feature Lady Day joined by such jazz all-stars as trumpeters Charlie Shavers and Harry "Sweets" Edison, altoist Benny Carter, and the tenors of Flip Phillips, Paul Quinichette and Ben Webster). Also included are prime performances at Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in 1945-1947, an enjoyable European gig from 1954, her "comeback" Carnegie Hall concert of 1956, Holiday's rather sad final studio album from 1959, and even lengthy tapes from two informal rehearsals. It's a perfect purchase for the true Billie Holiday fanatic. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1952 | Clef Records

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Billie Holiday's first recordings for Norman Granz' Clef Records present a vocalist truly at the top of her craft, although she would begin a rapid decline soon thereafter. This 1952 recording (originally issued as a 10" LP, Billie Holiday Sings) places Holiday in front of small piano and tenor saxophone-led groups including jazz luminaries such as Oscar Peterson and Charlie Shavers, where her gentle phrasing sets the tone for the sessions, evoking lazy evenings and dreamy afternoons. The alcoholism and heroin use that would be her downfall by the end of this decade seems to be almost unfathomable during these recordings since Holiday is in as fine a voice as her work in the '30s, and the musical environment seems ideal for these slow torch songs. Solitude runs as the common theme throughout these 16 tracks; the idle breathiness of "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" finds the vocalist casually reminiscing, and Barney Kessel's warm guitar lines frame the title track beautifully. Several of Holiday's best-known recordings came from this session, including outstanding versions of "I Only Have Eyes for You" and a darkly emotional "Love for Sale," making this album far and away the best work of her later years, and certainly a noteworthy moment of her entire career. © Zac Johnson /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Clef Records

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Taken from a pair of sessions taped during 1955-1956, Lady Sings the Blues finds Holiday in top form and backed by the sympathetic likes of tenor saxophonist Paul Quinichette, trumpeters Charlie Shavers and Harry Edison, pianist Wynton Kelly, and guitarists Kenny Burrell and Barney Kessel. And while these autumnal sides bear some of the frayed vocal moments often heard on Holiday's '50s Verve sides, the majority here still ranks with her best material. This is especially true of the cuts from the June 1956 date, which produced unparalleled versions of "No Good Man," "Some Other Spring," and "Lady Sings the Blues." See why many fans prefer the "worn out" Holiday heard here to the more chipper singer featured on those classic Columbia records from the '30s. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1958 | Verve Reissues

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Featuring recordings from February 1955 and released in 1958, Stay with Me is a late entry in Billie Holiday's career. She was fading, but hadn't lost the dramatic quality in her delivery, nor her ability to project and tell a shattering story. She's backed by trumpeter Charlie Shavers, pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Ed Shaughnessy. [Some reissues add three bonus cuts.] © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Clef Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released August 12, 1994 | Verve Reissues

Billie Holiday is predominant among jazz singers. Frank Sinatra said of her, "She was and remains my biggest influence." Sinatra points to the way Holiday could make a song her own. Her dusky, smoky voice conveys more about love and heartache in one syllable than most other singers in any genre will convey in a lifetime. This album is a collection of recordings from the '50s for the Verve and Clef labels. It's a late-night dream for the nights you can't sleep, thinkin' about the love that got away. Holiday is accompanied by some of the music's best players: Ben Webster (king of the big, breathy tenor sax tone), Benny Carter (alto sax), and Jimmy Rowles (one of the most graceful pianists ever). Her take on "Body and Soul" could melt the hardest heart, and imagine yourself at the end of your figurative rope with "Ill Wind." (The latter has great blues-shaded guitar by Barney Kessel, who himself was an influence on rock guitarist Pete Townsend.) A fine introduction to Holiday's twilight years. © TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released June 1, 1958 | Columbia - Legacy

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Verve Reissues

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1959 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released October 22, 2001 | Columbia - Legacy

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Vocal Jazz - Released August 8, 2014 | BnF Collection

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Vocal Jazz - Released November 13, 2020 | Verve

The soundtrack to the 2020 Billie Holiday documentary, Billie brings together a nice cross-section of the legendary singer's output from her early work in the 1930s to just before her death in the 1950s. The music correlates nicely with the director James Erskine's film, which works to illuminate Holiday's groundbreaking career, as well as her troubled personal life. Included on the soundtrack are a handful of what are largely considered Holiday's most important recordings. Chief among them is her landmark 1939 recording of "Strange Fruit," a haunting protest ballad against the lynching of black people that many believe helped to ignite the Civil Rights Movement. Also featured are a handful of her other classic studio recordings, including 1939's "Fine and Mellow," 1950's "God Bless the Child" with the Gordon Jenkins vocal group, and her live 1956 performance of "Don't Explain" captured at Carnegie Hall. We also get her swinging 1949 take on "Now or Never" with Sy Oliver & His Orchestra and her shimmering 1959 rendition of "I'll Never Smile Again" with Ray Ellis & His Orchestra. Included alongside these original recordings are a handful of contemporary instrumentals performed in a period-appropriate swing jazz style by the Sonhouse Allstars for incidental inclusion in the documentary. As a souvenir of the film, Billie works quite well. That said, one could quibble with some of the choices, such as picking the 1950 Jenkins arrangement of "God Bless the Child" over her original 1941 version, which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1976. Nonetheless, in terms of sheer listenability and as a documentation of her career arc, Billie is a fine introduction to Holiday's work. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released April 11, 1994 | Epm

Volume 6 of the Masterpieces series brings together Billie Holiday’s recordings from between 1935 and 1940, most of them with her trusty pianist Teddy Wilson. At the time, Lady Day who was beginning to gain popularity, was not yet the superstar she would later become but her genius was already starting to show in these moving archives. In standards such as These Foolish Things, Night & Day and Summertime, her unique timbre already carries her inner ills and great maturity. And the way she improvises to convey her emotions is totally revolutionary. A highlight of this album is Strange Fruits, which would later become one of the flagship songs of her repertoire, “strange fruits” symbolizing the bodies of black people hanging from trees in an America plagued by racism and segregation. Utterly moving. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1952 | Verve Reissues

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Billie Holiday's first recordings for Norman Granz' Clef Records present a vocalist truly at the top of her craft, although she would begin a rapid decline soon thereafter. This 1952 recording (originally issued as a 10" LP, Billie Holiday Sings) places Holiday in front of small piano and tenor saxophone-led groups including jazz luminaries such as Oscar Peterson and Charlie Shavers, where her gentle phrasing sets the tone for the sessions, evoking lazy evenings and dreamy afternoons. The alcoholism and heroin use that would be her downfall by the end of this decade seems to be almost unfathomable during these recordings since Holiday is in as fine a voice as her work in the '30s, and the musical environment seems ideal for these slow torch songs. Solitude runs as the common theme throughout these 16 tracks; the idle breathiness of "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" finds the vocalist casually reminiscing, and Barney Kessel's warm guitar lines frame the title track beautifully. Several of Holiday's best-known recordings came from this session, including outstanding versions of "I Only Have Eyes for You" and a darkly emotional "Love for Sale," making this album far and away the best work of her later years, and certainly a noteworthy moment of her entire career. © Zac Johnson /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Verve Reissues

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