The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert Recorded Live

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The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert Recorded Live
Live album by Billie Holiday
Released1961 (expanded CD 1989)
RecordedNovember 10, 1956
GenreVocal jazz
Length44:40
LabelVerve Records
ProducerNorman Granz
Billie Holiday chronology
Last Recordings (1959)The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert Recorded Live
(1961)
 
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The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert Recorded Live
Live album by Billie Holiday
Released1961 (expanded CD 1989)
RecordedNovember 10, 1956
GenreVocal jazz
Length44:40
LabelVerve Records
ProducerNorman Granz
Billie Holiday chronology
Last Recordings (1959)The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert Recorded Live
(1961)

The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert Recorded Live is a live album by jazz singer Billie Holiday, recorded November 10, 1956 at Carnegie Hall in New York. The two subsequent concerts served as promotion for Billie Holiday's autobiography Lady Sings the Blues.

Content[edit]

Advertisement for Billie Holiday's 1956 Carnegie Hall concert.

On November 10, 1956, Holiday performed two concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall, a major accomplishment for any artist, especially a black artist of the segregated period of American history.

Interspersed among Holiday's songs, Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues. The narrated parts of the concerts were originally not included until the re-release on CD in 1989.

In the liner notes of the album Millstein wrote:

The narration began with the ironic account of her birth in Baltimore – 'Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three' – and ended, very nearly shyly, with her hope for love and a long life with 'my man' at her side.

Millstein continued:

It was evident, even then, that Miss Holiday was ill. I had known her casually over the years and I was shocked at her physical weakness. Her rehearsal had been desultory; her voice sounded tinny and trailed off; her body sagged tiredly. But I will not forget the metamorphosis that night. The lights went down, the musicians began to play and the narration began. Miss Holiday stepped from between the curtains, into the white spotlight awaiting her, wearing a white evening gown and white gardenias in her black hair. She was erect and beautiful; poised and smiling. And when the first section of narration was ended, she sang – with strength undiminished – with all of the art that was hers. I was very much moved. In the darkness, my face burned and my eyes. I recall only one thing. I smiled.[1]

The critic Nat Hentoff of Down Beat magazine, who attended the Carnegie Hall concert, wrote the remainder of the sleeve notes on the 1961 album. He wrote of Holiday's performance:

Throughout the night, Billie was in superior form to what had sometimes been the case in the last years of her life. Not only was there assurance of phrasing and intonation; but there was also an outgoing warmth, a palpable eagerness to reach and touch the audience. And there was mocking wit. A smile was often lightly evident on her lips and her eyes as if, for once, she could accept the fact that there were people who did dig her.

Hentoff continued:

The beat flowed in her uniquely sinuous, supple way of moving the story along; the words became her own experiences; and coursing through it all was Lady's sound – a texture simultaneously steel-edged and yet soft inside; a voice that was almost unbearably wise in disillusion and yet still childlike, again at the centre. The audience was hers from before she sang, greeting her and saying good-bye with heavy, loving applause. And at one time, the musicians too applauded. It was a night when Billie was on top, undeniably the best and most honest jazz singer alive.

Track listing[edit]

Original LP release (Verve V-8410)
Side A
  1. "Lady Sings the Blues" (Billie Holiday, Herbie Nichols) – 2:38
  2. "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" (Porter Grainger, Everett Robbins) – 2:30
  3. "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" (Sam H. Stept, Sidney Clare, Bee Palmer) – 1:43
  4. "I'll Be Seeing You" (Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal) – 2:18
  5. "I Love My Man" (Billie Holiday) – 3:18
  6. "Body and Soul" (Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton, Johnny Green) – 2:40
Side B
  1. "Don't Explain" (Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog, Jr.) – 2:26
  2. "Yesterdays" (Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach) – 1:01
  3. "My Man" (Jacques Charles, Channing Pollack, Albert Willemetz, Maurice Yvain) – 3:13
  4. "I Cried for You" (Gus Arnheim, Arthur Freed, Abe Lyman) – 3:09
  5. "Fine and Mellow" (Billie Holiday) – 3:15
  6. "I Cover the Waterfront" (Johnny Green, Edward Heyman) – 3:46
  7. "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" (Harry M. Woods) – 2:43
CD release in 1989 (Verve 838 767-2)

with narration tracks added and the songs rearranged in the original (but incomplete) order of performance (with slightly different time codes)

  1. "Reading from Lady Sings the Blues" – 2:52
  2. "Lady Sings the Blues" (Billie Holiday, Herbie Nichols) – 2:38
  3. "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" (Porter Grainger, Everett Robbins) – 2:33
  4. "Reading from Lady Sings the Blues/Trav'lin' Light" (Trummy Young, Jimmy Mundy, Johnny Mercer) – 0:44
  5. "Reading from Lady Sings the Blues" – 2:06
  6. "Billie's Blues" (Billie Holiday) – 3:20
  7. "Body and Soul" (Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton, Johnny Green) – 2:41
  8. "Reading from Lady Sings the Blues" – 0:55
  9. "Don't Explain" (Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog, Jr.) – 2:30
  10. "Yesterdays" (Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach) – 1:16
  11. "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" (Sam H. Stept, Sidney Clare, Bee Palmer) – 1:43
  12. "I'll Be Seeing You" (Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal) – 2:28
  13. "Reading from Lady Sings the Blues" – 2:50
  14. "My Man" (Jacques Charles, Channing Pollack, Albert Willemetz, Maurice Yvain) – 3:13
  15. "I Cried for You" (Gus Arnheim, Arthur Freed, Abe Lyman) – 3:09
  16. "Fine and Mellow" (Billie Holiday) – 3:15
  17. "I Cover the Waterfront" (Johnny Green, Edward Heyman) – 3:46
  18. "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" (Harry M. Woods) – 2:49

Personnel[edit]

Billie Holiday with the Chico Hamilton Quintet

on tracks 1–9 (CD) with

on tracks 10–18 with

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Essential Billie Holiday, liner notes.