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Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Book Review: Billie Holiday - The Musician and the Myth

My first reaction was, do we really need another book on Billie Holiday any more than we need another book on Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington. Uncle Satchmo and all…? The answer, I said, emphatically, was no.
And then I read Billie Holiday – The Musician and the Myth.
This was different from the other biographies, well it’s not really a bio, it’s more an honest assessment of the myth’s that have surrounded her.
It also puts her music in perspective.
A major step forward is the author’s repudiation of the suggestion that Billie’s autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, written in conjunction with Bill Dufty, is more fiction than fact. Szwed answers much of the criticism and substantiates it with passages from the book that the publishers chose not to include for reasons that were, to say the least, not always musical.
It’s a fascinating read and, although the aim is to concentrate on the music, not surprisingly, some of the other side of her life; the drugs; the husbands; the girl friends; the seamier side are referred to but not sensationalised.
There are many musical references, her early influences, working with Shaw and Basie, Lester Young, Teddy Wilson. The songs, Gloomy Sunday, My Man and, of course, Strange Fruit are studied whilst also pointing out that Billie could swing in her own unique style. But, the one thing I longed for was an, at length, observation of Billie and Ella. I wanted to hear Szward’s thoughts and observations on the two most iconic jazz divas on the twentieth century.
That, notwithstanding, this is as good an insight into Lady Day as you are ever going to get (apart from Lady Sings the Blues - with the previously unpublished material included here.)
It’s not just highly recommended, it’s essential reading for anyone who ever played a Holiday CD/album/78, and then played it again and again and again…
Lance.
Billie Holiday - The Musician and the Myth available from Windmill Books on March 10, 2016.

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