Billie Holiday – Lady Day – Columbia/ Pure Pleasure Records PPAN CL637 – mono 180 gm vinyl – 1935-1937 ****½:
(Billie Holiday, vocals; with an all-star backing by Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman, Ben Webster, Teddy Wilson, Chu Berry, Bunny Berigan, Buck Clayton, Artie Shaw, Lester Young, Freddie Green, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Buster Bailey, Walter Page, Jo Jones, Cozy Cole, and others)
Billie Holiday is arguably the most well known female jazz singer ever, with Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan being for argument sake mentioned as her chief competitors. Billie’s health and personal problems greatly affected her output and the quality of her recording in the late 40s and into the 50s, until she passed away in 1959. Her voice was at its greatest in the 1930s, and Columbia Records, over seven sessions between July of 1935 and June of 1937, paired Lady Day with pianist Teddy Wilson, and groupings of the greatest jazz instrumentalists of the day. Review of the artist list above confirms that fact.
Pure Pleasure Records from England has used remastering genius Ray Staff, at Air Mastering, to work his magic on this very old material. Listening to Staff’s expertise is such a pleasure. For 78 rpm material this old – 75 years – to sound as clear and warm as it does on this edition of Lady Day, digital reproduction can not compare in my opinion. I am not downgrading the Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933 to 1944), but it might be nice to have one audiophile vinyl LP from the set…
Some memorable moments:
Benny Goodman’s playful clarinet on “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”
Benny Morton’s trombone backing and Roy Eldridge’s lead solo on “If You Were Mine.”
Billie’s definitive version of “Summertime” and Artie Shaw‘s emotive clarinet.
Lester Young’s mournful solo on “I Must Have That Man,” and then Buck Clayton making his statement…
Buster Bailey’s dreamy solo on “Easy Living” followed by more Pres…
Even more Lester Young on “A Sailboat in the Moonlight.” No one could caress Billie’s vocals as could Lester.
And finally, the inimitable Johnny Hodges opens for the Lady on “I Cried for You” and Billie makes you believe her devotion to the lyrics.
It’s OK to convert your Billie Holiday LP collection to CD, but keep at least one LP – preferably Lady Day.
Side 1: Miss Brown to You, I Wished on the Moon, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, If You Were Mine, Summertime, Billie’s Blues
Side 2: I Must Have That Man!, Foolin’ Myself, Easy Living, Me, Myself And I, A Sailboat in the Moonlight, I Cried for You
— Jeff Krow