Billie Holiday was the quintessential jazz vocalist living as well as singing the blues. This is the first volume compiling her CBS career, which began in 1933 after her discovery by John Hammond.
The collection starts with her first recording and includes 16 of her best tracks through 1935.
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.
Billie Holiday often stated that she styled her vocal phrasing to echo the sound of a jazz horn, so it should be no surprise that she found the perfect duet partner in tenor sax player Lester Young. Lady Day and Pres (they bestowed the nicknames on each other) recorded some 60 sides together between 1937 and 1946, many if not all of which have to be considered classics. This three-disc set collects everything the pair did, including alternate takes, and the best tracks are truly revelatory. Given the obvious musical connection on display in these sides, it is telling that both Holiday and Young died only four months apart in 1959. Apparently the world just couldn't handle one without the other.
When Sony/Columbia began its ambitious Legacy reissue project, those who followed their jazz titles knew it was only a question of time before the massive Billie Holiday catalog under their ownership would see the light in its entirety. The question was how? Years before there was a host of box sets devoted to her material, but the sound on those left something to be desired. Would they remaster the material in two- or three-disc sets with additional notes? Would it be one disc at a time? Would the material be issued as budget or midline material or at full price? The last item could be ruled out based on the label's aggressive and very thorough packages of single discs by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and others.