Friday, 02 November 2018

Billie Holiday : At Storyville

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  • Published on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 13:33
  • Written by Super User
  • Hits: 313

Intro - 1.14
I Cover The Waterfront - 3.25
Too Marvellous For Words - 2.14
I Love You Porgy - 3.09
Them There Eyes - 1.45
Willow Weep For Me - 3.55
I Only Have Eyes For You - 1.45
You Got To My Head - 3.55
He'S Funny That Way - 3.07
Billies Blues - 3.31
Miss Brown To You - 2.00
Lover Come Back To Me - 2.23
Ain't Nobody's Business - 2.24
You'Re Driving Me Crazy - 1.13

When Frank Sinatra wrote an article for Ebony magazine he stated in print “It is Billie Holiday, whom I first heard in 52nd Street clubs in the nineteen-thirties, who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence.” With those words Sinatra echoed the sentiments of hundreds of singers and musicians, men and women whose lives were affected by the work of a singular and remarkable woman. Billie’s life story has been well documented; she herself contributed to the library with her own autobiography Lady Sings The Blues published three years before her death. Born - as far as she knew - in Baltimore on 17 April, 1915 she died in the early hours of 17 July, 1959. During the intervening forty-four years she packed enough experiences, love, despair, artistry, hope, success and failure, to last several lifetimes. This record recreates two happy periods of her life, bookings at George Wein’s Storyville club at Boston, coincidentally almost exactly two years apart. She was happiest with jazz musicians around her and loved to work close to her audience in clubs, with her own rhythm section. George Wein provided just the right atmosphere for artists of Billie’s temperament and we are fortunate that radio broadcasts from the club captured Miss Holiday at her most relaxed, unencumbered by the usual tensions associated with the red “on air” warning lights and the control room staff with stop watches. Wein opened his first jazz club in Boston at the nineteen-forties and adopted the name “Storyville” from the infamous New Orleans red light district. Storyville was sited at various hotels in Boston, moving from the Buskmaster to Harvard Square and on to Copley Square. But wherever George staged his events he succeeded in getting the biggest names in jazz and in creating the right atmosphere. During the last week of October, 1951 Wein booked Billie Holiday and the Stan Getz Quintet. Billie brought along her own accompanist, pianist-arranger Buster Harding, and used the Storyville house rhythm section. Get’s unit, put together specifically for the Boston booking, comprised Al Haig, Jimmy Raney, Teddy Kotick and Tiny Kahn. (This quintet was recorded at the club by Roost Records who issued two LPs called Getz at Storyville.) Inevitably Getz was drawn to Billie’s work and sat in with her during the week they shared. “I marvelled how strong she was” he said later ”for a person who had taken so many knocks from life, and at her part expressed her admiration for Getz, a man who represented the second generation in the Lester Young tradition of tenor playing. Fortunately a handful of the Holiday-Getz collaborations were captured on tape from broadcasts originating at the club and three of them have been included here. The short You’re Driving Me Crazy is a joyous experience with Billie and Stan riding easily over the rhythm accompaniment. Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do was one of Billie’s favorite numbers during the Boston engagement - it was originally recorded by Miss Holiday with a big band under Buster Harding’s leadership in 1949 - and this version benefits from the sympathetic tenor obligato provided by Getz. Another popular number at Boston was Lover Come Back and two versions exist from Storyville broadcasts over station WMEX; there are versions with and without Getz. The remaining three tracks from the 1951 engagement presented here are by Billie with just the rhythm section. Her regular accompanist at the time was the experienced Buster Harding, a man who had contributed to the libraries of the Teddy Wilson, Coleman Hawkins, Artie Shaw, Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie libraries; his colleagues were two local men one of whom, Marquis Foster, was to replace Denzil Best in the George Shearing Quintet the following year. The other tracks comprise a broadcast from Storyville two years later, introduced by Boston jazz disc jockey John McClellan. In the interim period Billie had spent some time on the West Coast, moved back to New York and appeared at a number of important concerts including the one staged to commemorate Duke Ellington’s 25 years as a band leader. On 26 September, 1953 she was at Carnegie Hall as a guest artist with Stan Kenton and a few weeks later she took part in a nation-wide television program devoted to her life and called The Comeback Story. Come back she certainly did and when George Wein opened a new edition of his Storyville club, this time in Boston’s Copley Square Hotel, he booked Billie for a week and added the Louis Armstrong All Stars for the first night. By now Miss Holiday’s accompanist was Carl Drinkard and the “house” rhythm men were Jimmy Woode (later to join Duke Ellington’s orchestra) and Peter Littman (destined to become a part of the Chet Baker Quintet in January, 1955). One thing is clear from the opening I Cover The Waterfront, Billie is in full control of herself and in magnificent voice. She is relaxed and confident, as if Wein’s magic has worked once again in giving her the musical surroundings she wants. The program comprises old favorites such as Them There Eyes and the timeless Porgy, one of Billie’s most intense and moving performances. In fact the entire album shows Billie in rare form and it is never necessary to make excuses for below par singing while listening to this recording. Trumpeter John Chilton summed up the adult attitude to Billie’s art in his outstanding book Billie’s Blues (published by Quartet Books, London) when he wrote: “Billie Holiday, like almost every black artist of her time, was exploited from the moment she earned her first dollar, her life was a terrifying sequence of tragedies,but, by the mysterious processes of artistic creation, her sufferings enabled her to communicate intense feelings to her listeners. It is not squeamishness to prefer hearing Billie when she was able to give an insight into the whole range of human emotions, rather than listen to those recordings which present the sounds of a sick woman in despair”. Billie Holiday In Boston does not present a sick woman in despair, it is music created by a major jazz artist enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of a club where she was happy. Alun Morgan

Song Listing: ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do’, 2.24; ‘Billie’s Blues’, 3.27; ‘He’s Funny That Way’, 3.06; ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, 4.35; ‘I Love You, Porgy’, 3.11; ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, 2.22; ‘Lover, Come Back to Me’, 2.18; ‘Miss Brown to You’, 1.59; ‘Them There Eyes’, 1.52; ‘Too Marvelous for Words’, 2.14; ‘Willow, Weep for Me’, 3.50; ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’, 2.11.

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