|Billie Holiday, age 2 (1917)|
The great Billie Holiday was born 95 years ago today, on April 7th 1915. In my personal pantheon, there has never been a greater singer in sheer capacity to transfix and move the listener. Much beloved by her fellow musicians, her own musicianship was of the highest order and her raconteurship emotionally riveting. The jewels she hewed from the mountains of despair that formed the landscape of her life still radiate light today.
For some reason, I cannot look at the moon without seeing Lady Day's face. I do not remember when or why this began and only know that this is so and has been for practically all of my adult life.
|Billie Holiday — Evening Standard/Getty Images|
But in this performance, Billie Holiday just seemed to be sitting on a bar stool, cool, calm and naturally, jes talkin' atcha. I was struck by the realization that everything I had heard on all those vinyls was just her way of talking. But, oh, the things she had to say ...
|Painting by Merryl Jaye|
For me, and many others, the highlight is the expression on Lady Day's face as Lester Young begins to blow his gently simmering blues, the way she nods and shakes her head as the Prez hits that sweet spot. Take a look and listen (Lester Young's solo is the second one, after Ben Webster's) ...
white gardenias sway
under a mesmeric moon
so fine and mellow
The lineup of musicians is given in the introduction by the show's host and producer Robert Herridge. The order of the solos is:
Ben Webster - tenor sax
Lester Young - tenor sax
Vic Dickenson - trombone
Gerry Mulligan - baritone sax
Coleman Hawkins - tenor sax
Roy Eldridge - trumpet