Sunday, 5 November 2017

28. Billie Holiday & Lester Young (BD Jazz)

Billie & Lester by J. C. Baty

There are a few albums out there that bring compile the songs that Billie Holiday and Lester Young recorded together. Some of them are extraordinarily comprehensive but I felt the urge to include this one as I'm a bit of a sucker for those hybrid graphic novel/ CDs that are quite prevalent here in Europe. This is a two CD album with the first showcasing the two artists and the second focusing on Lester Young from as early as 1936's Shoe Shine Boy with Count Basie.

Lester Young and Billie Holiday were kindred spirits. Young's light but musically audacious tenor sax was the perfect foil for Holiday's vocal experimentation. The early tracks were recorded with various luminaries from Benny Goodman's and Count Basie's orchestras including Buck Clayton, Walter Page, Teddy Wilson, Freddie Greene and Jo Jones. This Year's Kisses is an absolute joy to listen to. Things then motor along beautifully with tracks included from an early summer 1937 session that included Johnny Hodges on the alto trading licks with Young. Mean To Me is one of the highlights of the whole album.

Back In Your Backyard is a fascinating track for the time it was recorded; January 12th 1938. It was four days later that Benny Goodman was to change the course of music history with his historic performance at Carnegie Hall and the after-show event that was to occur in Harlem where Chick Webb and Count Basie were to do battle. Billie and Lester were surely having the time of their lives.

The album then moves into the early 1940s with I'm Pulling Through and the fantastic All Of Me. All the musicians involved were truly at the top of their games at this stage. The first part of the album concludes with perhaps their most famous collaboration from the CBS TV special in 1957, Fine And Mellow. The first version is the rehearsal version and the second is the broadcast version with Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge and Gerry Mulligan.

1. He Ain't Got Rhythm
2. This Year's Kisses
3. I Must Have That Man
4. Sun Showers
5. Mean To Me
6. Foolin' Myself
7. I'll Never Be The Same
8. Me Myself And I
9. A Sailboat In The Moonlight
10. Born To Love
11. Who Wants Love?
12. He's Funny That Way.
13. When You're Smiling.
14. If Dreams Came True
15. Back In Your Backyard
16. I Can't Get Started
17. I've Got A Date With A Dream
18. The Man I Love
19. You're A Lucky Guy
20. I'm Pulling Through
21. All Of Me
22. Fine And Mellow (1)
23. Fine And Mellow (2)

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