[Dixielandjazz] Billie Holiday reviewed -- Buffalo News, June 14, 2015

Robert Ringwald rsr at ringwald.com
Thu Jun 18 23:46:36 PDT 2015

Billie Holiday: “Banned from New York City: Live 1948-1957” (Uptown, two discs)

by Jeff Simon

Buffalo News, June 14, 2015

The February 1953 issue of Tan Magazine featured Billie Holiday on the cover. The cover piece’s title was “Can a Dope Addict Come Back?” She had, by then, served nine months at a federal prison in West Virginia. According to Kirk Silsbee’s notes here, it was her conviction that her 1947 arrest on a narcotics charge in Philadelphia was, at least in part, retribution for her record “Strange Fruit,” a milestone of American music and American cultural history, both. She lost her cabaret card, which meant she spent much of the final years of her life unable to perform in New York City. This two-disc set of final period Billie in live performance is a historic collection of important jazz history. “Some of it has been released piecemeal; some of it has never been issued.” The live concert performances are from Los Angeles in 1948 and 1956, Philadelphia in 1951, Brussels, Belgium, and Boston in 1954, “The Steve Allen Show” in 1956, and Chicago in 1957. The arc of her severe decline is unmistakable but, even so, she is surprisingly robust singing on “The Steve Allen Show,” no matter how diffident she is in the Allen “interview.” The Bobby Troup introduction to “My Man” may make you a little sick in its tribute to her “man” Louis McCay, whom the notes tell us “threw the phone at her and cut her head; he cheated on her, and he stole her money.” If you’ve never heard Billie Holiday live from this period, it’s all both tragic and miraculous in its way. A great reissue of what’s been heard before and an indispensable bit of what we’ve never heard on disc before.

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