Throughout these sessions, a window into Billie Holiday's creative process is provided by the inclusion of alternate takes. Many of them are rare, although all have previously been issued on one or another of the labels that have interacted with Commodore over the years. As alternates for records on other labels also reveal, once Billie conceptualized her approach to a song, she seldom varied the basic template. She seemed to decide the best way to organize the expressive gifts at her disposal and "photograph" in her mind a musical image of how she would do the number. Once that image was in place, subsequent versions for the most part differed only in matters of nuance or animation.
This is a rather incredible collection: ten CDs enclosed in a tight black box that includes every one of the recordings Verve owns of Billie Holiday, not only the many studio recordings of 1952-57 (which feature Lady Day joined by such jazz all-stars as trumpeters Charlie Shavers and Harry "Sweets" Edison, altoist Benny Carter, and the tenors of Flip Phillips, Paul Quinichette and Ben Webster). Also included are prime performances at Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in 1945-1947, an enjoyable European gig from 1954, her "comeback" Carnegie Hall concert of 1956, Holiday's rather sad final studio album from 1959, and even lengthy tapes from two informal rehearsals. It's a perfect purchase for the true Billie Holiday fanatic.
It's fitting that singer Billie Holiday began the most celebrated part of her career with Columbia in 1933, when the country was in the throes of the depression, and ended it in 1942, when the world was gripped by war. Her anguished delivery fit in perfectly with the times. As she projected the torments of her life through music, she gave us an escape from our own troubles, by reminding us of how bad life could get. Regardless, Holiday's sublime Columbia recordings, which originally appeared on the Brunswick, Vocalion and Okeh labels, are among the true treasures of jazz. The complete recordings were released a few years ago in a mammoth box set. This four CD collection pares the material down considerably, although the producers have not just taken the cream of the crop…
The complete memorable recordings made by Billie Holiday in 1956-57 backed by a small group including Ben Webster, Harry Edison, Jimmy Rowles and Barney Kessel. A complete Holiday set recorded at Newport during the same period has been added as a bonus. Includes 16-page booklet.
There's a moment on Billie Holiday: The Ultimate Collection when Lester Young slips into his sax solo and the camera zooms in on Billie Holiday's face. Glistening eyes, arching brow and an uncontrollable smile reveal anticipation, awe and admiration. The pair joins an allstar cast including Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and Gerry Mulligan among others for a 1957 CBS performance of "Fine And Mellow . Earlier, a scene from the 1947 film New Orleans portrays an exuberant Louis Armstrong bursting with delight during "The Blues Are Brewin' while the stunning, gardenia-encrusted Miss Holiday sings by his side. With ten rare performances, the DVD provides an overview of Lady Day's career and provides a glimpse into the singer's persona.