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Billie Holiday: God Bless the Child: The Very Best of Billie Holiday

Album Notes

It's easy to call any collection "The Very Best Of" and mislead naïve listeners into believing the claim until they take the record home and give it a spin, and find it was compiled of dead dogs or substandard material licensed by some shoddy label to make a buck. Not so with this fine 14-cut collection by Sony/BMG Legacy, God Bless the Child: The Very Best of Billie Holiday, which certainly makes a convincing argument for the claim. While it begins with a 1941 performance of the title track, with Roy Eldridge, Jimmy Powell, Grachan Moncur, Eddie Heywood, and Herbert Cowans in the band, it goes backward to 1935 when she fronted the Teddy Wilson Orchestra for a historic session that yielded three classic performances, including "I Wished on the Moon." Her association with Wilson continues into 1936 with one cut, "I Cried for You," featuring Jonah Jones, Wilson, Harry Carney, and Cozy Cole in the band. The version of "Billie's Blues" included here is the original recorded take from 1937 with Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw, and Joe Bushkin. Of course, "Easy Living" is included here, with Holiday once more fronting Wilson's band, which in 1937 included Buck Clayton, Walter Page, Jo Jones, and the great saxophonist Lester Young. Other performances that make this set an amazing buy for the price include "My Man" from 1937; "Some Other Spring" with Charlie Shavers and Tab Smith; "Body and Soul" from 1940; "I Cover the Waterfront" from 1941; and one of the most haunting vocal tunes in the history of jazz, "Gloomy Sunday" with the Wilson band -- featuring J.C. Heard on drums -- from 1942. These 14 tunes give an overview of Holiday at her peak and will certainly inspire listeners to dig deeper into her catalog. ~ Thom Jurek


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