48 years after her passing, Billie Holiday was honored with a five-CD set of Rare Live Recordings that includes film soundtracks, concert and club performances, radio and television broadcasts, rehearsal tapes, and even a private home recording where Lady Day sings "My Yiddishe Mama" and "God Bless the Child" to a child! If you think you know this ...
48 years after her passing, Billie Holiday was honored with a five-CD set of Rare Live Recordings that includes film soundtracks, concert and club performances, radio and television broadcasts, rehearsal tapes, and even a private home recording where Lady Day sings "My Yiddishe Mama" and "God Bless the Child" to a child! If you think you know this singer, tap into this collection and see how much more there was to her than at first meets the ear. The more or less chronological presentation maps her personal and artistic transformation between the years 1934 and 1959. Out of approximately 60 titles, seven are rendered no less than four times apiece, and three -- "Them There Eyes," "God Bless the Child" and "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" -- appear in five different versions. For this reason, those who seek a nice all-purpose, easy-to-use sampler of her career should probably consult her studio recordings first. ESP's Rare Live Recordings set is for people who have been smitten for life and cannot possibly get enough Billie Holiday. The intertwined discography, biographical chronology, and extensive liner notes spread out over two booklets, are at once informative, insightful and (unfortunately) sprinkled with typographic, editorial, and even factual errors. The worst of these is a glaringly incorrect statement in reference to the CBS Sound of Jazz television broadcast of December 8, 1957, whereby the producer makes the statement that "...this would also prove to be one of the last performances for baritone saxophonist Harry Carney." The reference was actually to tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who would die almost exactly four months before the passing of Lady Day in 1959. (Carney, of course, lived for another 17 years as the bass clef backbone of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.) Furthermore, the amazing rehearsal tapes are only partially represented here; they were reissued in their entirety on CD in 2006 as Songs & Conversations: The Lost Billie Holiday Session (SRI 510021). Why ESP-Disk omitted several tracks from this soul-baring workshop (taped in bassist Artie Bernstein's living room with a rather outspoken Jimmy Rowles at the piano) is puzzling and maybe even frustrating. But let's not allow these flaws to detract too much from the magnificence of this extended tribute to a great artist. ESP-Disk, one of the world's great independent record labels, is to be commended for having Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell in the same catalog with Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Marion Brown, Frank Wright, Pharoah Sanders, Patty Waters, Pearls Before Swine and Yma Sumac. Given the relatively easy availability of Lady Day's Vocalion/Columbia, Decca, and Verve studio recordings, this fascinating anthology of her uncommon works can and will act as a richly rewarding appendix to the more familiar portions of her legacy. ~ arwulf arwulf, Rovi