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In my solitude You haunt me With reveries Of days gone by
Like quite a few other sentimental favorites, Duke Ellington's composition epitomizes the feeling you get when Billie Holiday sings.
At the height of the swing era, Holiday's voice sparkled with an expressive sheen. By 1935, she had developed the characteristic vocal charm for which we'd remember her eternally. The period covered by these ten CDs was a prolific era for Holiday. Just about everybody recorded with her. A natural, well-done reproduction gives the collection added value. Holiday sings these songs her own way, working side by side with key soloists such as Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Hodges, Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Cootie Williams, Vido Musso, Charlie Shavers, Billy Kyle, Harry James, Bobby Hackett, Benny Carter, Hot Lips Page, Sweets Edison, Jonah Jones, Buster Bailey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson. The bounce and swing of a two-step lends qualities that are sometimes forgotten. Maybe it reminds us of simpler times, when songs carried a message that you could remember, and improvised solos carried significant weight. It's a conversational method of interpreting popular songs. Members from the big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman became significant partners for Holiday's giant assortment of song interpretations. She and Lester Young shared many occasions. Most of Disc Three and Disc Four finds the pair together. The singer would convince the world with lyrics such as "I'm painting the town red to hide a heart that's blue" and "I'm all alone, singin' the blues and sighin'." Her interpretations have the ability to summon up those feelings in our hearts. Few singers are able to make such an impact. Coyly dramatic, Holiday's interpretations attach special memories to many of the songs. "Them There Eyes," "Nice Work if You Can Get It," "If You Let Me Down," "God Bless the Child" and "I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me" simply could not be matched by another. Billie Holiday has that effect on you. The songs have come from many directions. Most are from musical productions, such as Stars Over Broadway, King of Burlesque, Swing Time, Easy Living, Pennies From Heaven and On the Avenue. The moon seems to have cast its spell on this music, making its appearance in many of the song titles. It's all about romance and Billie Holiday's unique form of expression.
Each over an hour in length, the ten discs are organized with the original sessions appearing first, in chronological order. Repeats, alternate takes and air-checks begin halfway through the seventh disc. For those, the sound is just a little rusty in places.
The set offers many rare moments. Harry Carney fills fluidly on clarinet behind Holiday for "It's Like Reaching for the Moon." Buster Bailey supplies the same kind of empathy for "They Can't Take That Away From Me." For "I've Got a Date With a Dream," Lester Young trades sixteens on clarinet with trombonist Dicky Wells. Martha Tilton, Johnny Mercer, Billie Holiday and Leo Watson each sing a chorus of "Jeepers Creepers" with Benny Goodman and his orchestra. The arrangement includes an exciting bit of scat singing from Watson. Saxophonist Joe Thomas warms up to the singer as a complacent comrade for "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Guitarist Eddie Durham fills delicately behind Holiday with a natural timbre for the loping ballad "On the Sentimental Side." The light swing of "Night and Day" falls under the spell of Joe Sullivan's cascading piano. Lester Young and Benny Goodman pour out gentle interludes for "I Must Have That Man." Benny Carter fills on clarinet for "St. Louis Blues" and provides a luscious solo to complement Holiday's infectious swing portrayal of another W.C. Handy tune, "Loveless Love." That one includes the poignant lyric, "Love is like a hydrant, it turns off and on." Most of these songs were originally issued on the Brunswick, Vocalion and OKeh labels. Including dozens of photographs, biographical and musicological essays by Gary Giddins, Farah Griffin and Michael Brooks, the boxed set covers a lot of territory. By remembering the treasured singer, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, this collection brings it all back. Her natural voice and casual phrasing made Billie Holiday easy to love.
Track Listing: Your Mother's Son-in-Law; Riffin' the Scotch; I Wished on the Moon; What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Miss Brown To You; A Sunbonnet Blue; What a Night, What a Moon, What a Girl; I'm Painting the Town Red; It's Too Hot for Words; Twenty-Four Hours a Day; Yankee Doodle Never Went to Town; Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo; If You Were Mine; These 'n' That 'n' Those; If You Let Me Down; Spreadin' Rhythm Around; Life Begins When You're In Love; It's Like Reaching For the Moon; These Foolish Things; I Cried For You; Guess Who; Did I Remember?; No Regrets; Summertime; Billie's Blues; A Fine Romance; I Can't Pretend; One, Two, Button Your Shoe; Let's Call a Heart a Heart; Easy to Love; With Thee I Swing; The Way You Look Tonight; Who Loves You?; Pennies From Heaven; That's Life, I Guess; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; One Never Knows, Does One?; I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm; If My Heart Could Only Talk; Please Keep Me In Your Dreams; He Ain't Got Rhythm; This Year's Kisses; Why Was I Born?; I Must Have That Man; The Mood That I'm In; You Showed Me the Way; Sentimental and Melancholy; My Last Affair; Carelessly; How Could You?; Moanin' Low; Where is the Sun?; Let's Call the Whole Thing Off; They Can't Take That Away From Me; Don't Know If I'm Comin' or Goin'; Sun Showers; Yours and Mine; I'll Get By; Mean to Me; Foolin' Myself; Easy Living; I'll Never Be the Same; Me, Myself and I; A Sailboat in the Moonlight; Born to Love; Without Your Love; Getting Some Fun out of Life; Who Wants Love?; Trav'lin All Alone; He's Funny That Way; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Things Are Looking Up; My Man; Can't Help Lovin' That Man; My First Impression Of You; When You're Smiling; I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me; If Dreams Come True; Now They Call it Swing; On the Sentimental Side; Back in Your Own Backyard; When a Woman Loves a Man; You Go To My Head; The Moon Looks Down and Laughs; If I Were You; Forget If You Can; Having Myself a Time; Says My Heart; I Wish I Had You; I'm Gonna Lock My Heart; The Very Thought Of You; I Can't Get Started; I've Got a Date with a Dream; You Can't Be Mine; Everybody's Laughing; Here it is Tomorrow Again; Say it With a Kiss; April In My Heart; I'll Never Fail You; They Say; You're So Desirable; You're Gonna See a Lot of Me; Hello, My Darling; Let's Dream in the Moonlight; That's All I Ask of You; Dream of Life; What Shall I Say?; It's Easy to Blame the Weather; More Than You Know; Sugar; You're Too Lovely to Last; Under a Blue Jungle Moon; Everything Happens for the Best; Why Did I Always Depend on You?; Long Gone Blues; Some Other Spring; Our Love is Different; Them There Eyes; Swing, Brother, Swing; Night And Day; The Man I Love; You're Just a No Account; You're a Lucky Guy; Ghost of Yesterday; Body And Soul; What Is This Going to Get Us?; Falling in Love Again; I'm Pulling Through; Tell Me More; Laughing At Life; Time on My Hands; I'm All for You; I Hear Music; The Same Old Story; Practice Makes Perfect; St. Louis Blues; Loveless Love; Let's Do It; Georgia On My Mind; Roman
Personnel: Billie Holiday- vocal; Bobby Hackett- cornet; Roy Eldridge, Henry "Red" Allen, Cy Baker, Bunny Berigan, Emmett Berry, Richard Clarke, Shirley Clay, Buck Clayton, Bill Coleman, Shad Collins, Gordon "Chris" Griffin, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Ziggy Elman, Harry James, Freddy Jenkins, Jonah Jones, Ed Lewis, Bobby Moore, Hot Lips Page, Irving "Mouse" Randolph, Charlie Shavers, Eddie Thompkins, Arthur Whetsol, Cootie Williams, Charlie Teagarden- trumpet; Jack Teagarden, Red Ballard, Lawrence Brown, Vernon Brown, Tyree Glenn, George Hunt, Dan Minor, Benny Morton, Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Dicky Wells, Trummy Young- trombone; Juan Tizol- valve trombone; Benny Goodman, Buster Bailey, Irving Fazola, Edmond Hall, Tom Mace, Vido Musso, Prince Robinson, Artie Shaw- clarinet; Tab Smith- soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Johnny Hodges- clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Jimmy Powell, Marshall Royal, Edgar Sampson, Hymie Schertzer- clarinet, alto saxophone; Eddie Barefield, Noni Bernardi, Lester Boone, Bill Bowen, Joe Eldridge, Carl Frye, Hilton Jefferson, Leslie Johnakins, Earle Warren, Don Redmond- alto saxophone; Georgie Auld- alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Benny Carter- clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Barney Bigard, Jimmy Hamilton, Ernie Powell, Babe Russin, Cecil Scott, Lester Young- clarinet, tenor saxophone; Chu Berry, Don Byas, Herschel Evans, Kenneth Holion, Jerry Jerome, Art Karle, Vido Musso, Stanley Payne, Art Rollini, Kermit Scott, Joe Thomas, Ben Webster- tenor saxophone; Jack Washington- alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; Harry Carney- clarinet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Joe Bushkin, Clyde Hart, Eddie Heywood, Margaret "Countess" Johnson, Kenny Kersey, Billy Kyle, James Sherman, Jess Stacy, Joe Sullivan, Art Tatum, Claude Thornhill, Buck Washington, Sonny White, Teddy Wilson- piano; Freddie Green, Bernard Addison, Dave Barbour, Al Casey, Paul Chapman, John Collins, Eddie Durham, Gene Fields, Fred Guy, Benny Heller, Ulysses Livingston, Lawrence Lucie, Carmen Mastren, Dick McDonough, Jimmy McLin, Allan Reuss, John Trueheart, Danny Barker- guitar; Milt Hinton, John Kirby, Artie Bernstein, Wellman Braud, Harry Goodman, Al Hall, Grachan Moncur, Wilson Myers, Walter Page, Pete Peterson, Oscar Pettiford, Ted Sturgis, John Williams- bass; Cozy Cole, Sidney Catlett, Kenny Clarke, Herbert Cowans, Eddie Dougherty, Sonny Greer, J.C. Heard, Jo Jones, Yank Porter, Buddy Shultz, Alphonse Steele, Hal West, Gene Krupa- drums; Deane Kincaide- arranger; Johnny Mercer, Martha Tilton, Leo Watson- vocals.