IT’s LADY DAY’s DAY TODAY: Happy 100th Anniversary Billie Holiday!

BillieHoliday_FavoritePhotoOn November 27, 1933 Lady was “RIFFIN’ THE SCOTCH” with Benny Goodman & His Orchestra. It’s a bitty ditty novelty song, like so many she did during the 1930’s.

Anyway, she dusted them odd songs off with her kind of relaxed phrasing; she was the very first jazz vocalist who really swung. One of the finest examples how Lady Day was moving ’round the beat is “GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE”, featuring Buck Clayton (tp) Buster Bailey (cl) Lester Young (ts) Claude Thornhill (p) Freddie Greene (g) Walter Page (b) Jo Jones (d) – September 13, 1937.

She was the first jazz singer ever who got featured with a black, and a white big band. Although there are no studio dates, we have two ‘live’ tracks, featuring Lady with Count Basie & His Orchestra. Here’s “SWING! BROTHER, SWING!” from the  Savoy Ballroom, June 30, 1937.

AnyOldTime_labelLady’s stint with Artie Shaw was too short (although there are many brilliantly sounding broadcasts, recorded off the air in 1938/ ’39 and released on more than 10 LP’s, none of them presents Lady with the Artie Shaw orchestra), but Artie made sure that she recorded at least one vocal with his orchestra before he had to let her leave:

“ANY OLD TIME”,  recorded during Artie’s very first recording session for RCA-Victor on July 24, 1938.

“I HEAR MUSIC” every time I’m spinning one of her great sides: Roy Eldridge (tp) Don Redman (as) Georgie Auld, Don Byas, Jimmy Hamilton (ts) Teddy Wilson (p) John Collins (g) Al Hall (b) Kenny Clarke (d) – September 12, 1940.


There’s not one single day, I’m not thinking of Lady Holiday. As a jazz musician you can’t afford to ignore her: One can’t play a credible jazz horn without knowing her recordings. The same goes for Louis Armstrong: It’s impossible to improvise without having listened extensively (and intensively!) to his music. So, why not listening to the two together?

“YOU CAN’T LOSE A BROKEN HEART”, recorded for DECCA in 1949. Lady was gone 10 years later. Both her heart and her voice were broken.

This here is another favorite of mine: “DON’T WORRY ‘BOUT ME”, featuring Ray Ellis & His Studio Orchestra and the inimitable Gene Quill on altosax, Hank Jones (p) Barry Galbraith (g) Milt Hinton (b) Osie Johnson (d) & strings. It’s on the album “BILLIE HOLIDAY – LAST RECORDING” which was released posthumously.



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