posted by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy
I read the Billie Holiday story long before the glitzy Motown produced coming-out party for Diana Ross acting. I had heard her on records and seen her pictures in large magazines too. Life,Ebony,even Downbeat and Metronome. I was only in my early teens myself, but there were something that made me attracted to her, I can’t explain it, it just WAS. I was already up on most jazz greats because I was a budding saxophonist, So I listened to Lester Young,( her favorite saxophonist IMO) Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Dexter Gordon, all-powerful reedmen of the era, but none of them connected like Lester Young when it came to Billie’s singing style and approach to the blues..Lester was her shadow musically. I guess in a similar pair of kindred souls, the great Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn came close. it took a great deal of sensitivity and worldly experience to sing and play like that. I often referred back to Billie’s story as a young girl, raped, abused and casted into a cold, barren under-world of crime, drugs, sexism,racism and no understanding of real love.
In the adult and older Billie there were a certain regalness about her that just carried over into her persona on stage and became part of her “gaze upon the people”. You can actually see her do it in a filmed version of her listening to Lester’s solo on ” My MAN DON”T LOVE ME”..OMG!! Lester pops up as on a catapult when he bursts on the scene with one of the most succinct, passionate solos you would ever hear. Billie gazing, then start to nodding in approval..Classic! In Fact, all of the cadre of jazz icons are blowing to please Billie Holiday on this famous TV show’s footage . HAPPY 100th BILLIE 1915 – 2015 RIP