1944 sessions

(A) STUDIO SESSIONS

Session #48 New York 25/March/1944 Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra (CD: Complete Commodore vol.1, tk 8 ,15, 16 & 21 )
Doc Cheatham (tp) Lem Davis (as) Vic Dickenson (tb) Eddie Heywood (p) Teddy Walters (g) John Simmons (b) ‘Big Sid’ Catlett (d) Billie Holiday (v)

This is the first of a series of three sessions Billie recorded to Commodore in 1944. In total, 11 standards and one blues. The tempos are unfortunately too slow. Producer is Milt Gabler. A particularity in Commodore records is the way the recordings sessions took place, with several AT (alternate takes) for each track. Many of them were licensed later to other labels. Almost all tracks had three or four takes.

(MT 161) How Am I To Know
(MT 162) My Old Flame *

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 163) I’ll Get By ** in this track, as an exception, the rhythm is swung and it is worth the Teddy Walter’s solo.

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 164) I Cover the Waterfront

 


Session #49 New York 01/April/1944 Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra (CD: Complete Commodore vol.1, tk 23 and Complete Commodore vol.2, tk 3, 5 & 7)
Doc Cheatham (tp) Lem Davis (as) Vic Dickenson (tb) Eddie Heywood (p) John Simmons (b) Sid Catlett (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Tempos are very slow, almost a funeral, but compensated by the song selection.

(MT 165) I’ll Be Seeing You ** this song by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Irving Kahal is one of my favorites. In spite of the slow tempo it’s a pleasure to listen. See further in this text a mention to a live version recorded live in the Carnegie Hall in November, 1956, her best rendering of this song.

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 166) I’m Yours *

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 167) Embraceable You * another favorite of mine, this by George & Ira Gershwin.

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 168) As Time Goes By – who doesn’t remember Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca? The arrangement doesn’t help, though.

 


Session #50 New York 08/April/1944 Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra (CD: Complete Commodore vol.2, tk 11, 14, 19 & 20)
Freddie Webster (t) Lem Davis (as) Vic Dickenson (tb) Eddie Heywood (p) John Simmons (b) Big Sid Catlett (d) Billie Holiday (v)

This is quite a peculiar session, with two versions of the band, with and without the brass section; two songs were recorded both ways and I gave MTs 173 and 174 the status of master takes, considering them as original recordings.

Part I: a small and jazziest band (piano, bass and drums), known as Eddie Heywood Trio; to regret the poor equalization.
(MT 169) She’s Funny That Way *** the piano backing and the discreet rhythm session accentuate Billie’s voice. The best track of this session.

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 170) Lover Come Back to Me *** the tempo evolves to a nice swing, though the equalization leaves Billie’s’ voice too exposed over the band. The song is excellent, by Sigmund Romberg & Oscar Hammerstein II. See a second studio recording in 1952 (v.#235), with a much better sound quality.

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 171) Billie’s Blues (aka I Love My Man) *

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

(MT 172) On The Sunny Side Of The Street *

The image below is from the original 78rpm disc. Click here to listen.

Part II: the full band, with the brass section, resulting in an heavy arrangement (CD: Complete Commodore vol.2, tk 13 & 14)

Both tracks were considered alternate takes by Commodore. However, as they have a different band and arrangement I took them as MTs. They were never released in 78rpm.

(MT 173) He’s Funny That Way ** this original AT track was issued only in 1972 by Atlantic Records in LP SD-1614.
(MT 174) Lover Come Back To Me *** despite the fanfare in the beginning! It was also considered an AT and never issued in vinyl.
    • Maybe because of its nice rhythm, this song would turn very popular in Billie’s live shows. We know ten live recordings, among them the famous concert “Jazz Club USA” in February, 54 in Switzerland (v.)

THE DECCA YEARS

It is difficult to establish a proper personality for the Decca years, from 1944 to 1950. Altogether, 39 tracks in 15 recording sessions with 14 different bands and 10 bandleaders! z_milt_gabler@Milt Gabler, Commodore’s owner, became also Decca associate and, maybe under his influence, Billie signed with the label. The double CD album that contains all these tracks and their respective alternate takes is a perfection of history and details, covering all different takes. In comparison to Commodore, Decca quality is outstanding. Billie signed in August 7th, 1944.


Session #51 New York 04/October/1944 Toots Camarata and his Orchestra (CD: Complete Decca vol.1, tk 1 & 2)
Russ Case (tp) Hymie Schertzer, Jack Cressey (as) Larry Binyon, Paul Ricci (ts) Dave Bowman (p) Carl Kress (g) Haig Stephens (b) Johnny Blowers (d) Billie Holiday (v) six strings.

Too many horns set the base for Toots Camarata orchestra that recorded two subsequent sessions with very similar bands. Milt Gabler is the producer. Apparently at the time the use of strings was unusual for a singer and considered a privilege for stars like Crosby and Sinatra. But Billie loved this kind of arrangement and required it for this session.

(MT 175) Lover Man ** a classic that Jimmy Davis composed specially for Billie when he was still on the army. She loved strings and begged Gabler to program them in this track because “the song demanded”. Decca agreed. I don’t like heavy arrangements, but I have to agree that they worked well in this wonderful track. A nice beginning in the new label, don’t you think?

The image below is from the original 78rpm disk. Click here to listen.

    • Although recorded only once in studio, this song became quite popular in Billie’s live shows. We know seven registers, among them the excellent appearance in “The Seven Ages Jazz Festival” in Connecticut, September 1958 (++, see comment in the date ahead)
(MT 176) No More – Billie’s voice is perfect in this recording, it deserves a careful listening. Unfortunately, this is a minor song, composed by Camarata for Billie. She declared later this be one of her favorite songs.

The image below is from the original 78rpm disk. Click here to listen.

 


Session #52 New York 08/November/1944 Toots Camarata and his Orchestra (CD: Complete Decca vol.1, tk 4, 5 & 6)
Russ Case (tp) Hymie Schertzer, Jack Cressey (as) Larry Binyon, Dave Harris (ts) Dave Bowman (p) Carl Kress (g) Haig Stephens (b) George Wettling (d) Billie Holiday (v) six strings.

Arrangement also conducted by Camarata, very similar to the previous session. The music score and the band are mediocre.

(MT 177) That Ole Devil Called Love * same remarks as MT176)

The image below is from the original 78rpm disk. Click here to listen.


NOTE: my intention in this discography is to comment only the master takes recorded in studio. The so called “alternate takes” are versions taped with same musicians and same date. One is selected as the “MT-master take” to be printed. Sometimes, however, remaining  AT were later licensed to small or foreign recording companies and issued under independent labels.

This is the case of the two remaining tracks from session 52 that follow. They were recorded with Toots Camarata and his Orchestra, as I pointed out in the Session intro. But Decca recorded both again in the beginning of 1945, this time with Bob Haggart and his Orchestra.

That 1945 version of Don’t Explain would be considered as MT (180 in my index). Personally I don’t agree with Decca and would choose  MT 178 instead – notice how creative are the sax obbligatos in the second half.

The case with Big Stuff is even more curious. The 1945 version was also considered AT and a third take was recorded in 1946, this time with Bill Stegmeyer and his Orchestra (MT 186). One more AT. Finally a 4th take with a combo named Billie Holiday and her Orchestra was the one issued by Decca (MT 187). This time I fully agree with Decca.


(MT 178) Don’t Explain * this is one more composition written by Billie partnering with Herzog, always based in her favorite subject. I like this song: “Hush now, don’t explain, you are my joy and pain.” In spite of the strings, this is a very nice recording. It is said Billie wrote this song after her husband, Jimmy Monroe, who came home one night with lipstick’s traces on his collar.

(MT 179) Big Stuff

Both tracks remained unissued until 1975, when included in MCA Coral LP in Germany (6.22125AK). Sound Not available.


B) LIVE SESSIONS

Live Session #10 [live recording] New York, 18/January/1944 Metropolitan Opera House, All-Star Jam Band (CD: Complete in Columbia, vol.10 – see note below).
Roy Eldridge (tp) Jack Teagarden (tb) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Barney Bigard (cl) Art Tatum (p) Al Casey (g) Oscar Pettiford (b) Sidney Catlett (d) Billie Holiday (v)

This session celebrate a very special evening – this was her first presentation in a major concert hall and those lucky enough to have concert tickets saw her become the first black woman to sing on stage at the Metropolitan. The show was  the “Esquire” magazine’s All-American First Annual Jazz Concert and there Billie was presented with the 1943 female vocalist of the year. The show was partially broadcast. BH changed gowns from white to black during the break.

44-01-18_metropolitan_tatum_@44-01-18_metropolitan_tatum_catlett_pettiford @

(LR 14) Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me * the track starts with Leonard Feather: “now presenting our first vocal star of the evening, incomparable, all-american, girl-singer, miss Billie Holiday” . After the audience applause Eldridge opens and does the obbligati. It is a pleasure to hear Billie’s voice so clear.

(LR 16) I’ll Get By ** this part of the show is broadcast and, after Feather’s presentation of Billie and Eldridge, she carries this short balanced track with no bridge (and a lovely black gown).

Both tracks are in the original 78 rpm V-disc. Click here to listen.

(LR 15) Billie’s Blues (I Love My Man) * the slow tempo track is almost ruined by Catlett out-of-mood interventions and inconvenient voices behind also don’t help, making the audience laugh. However Billie didn’t get disturbed.

The image below is from the original 78rpm V-disc. Click here to listen.

Note: All three songs are included in the box Perfect Complete Collection vol.1 (sound is poor, but the presentation for  “I’ll Get By” has not been cut off). All tracks can also be found in the box Complete in Columbia, vol.10. This latter CD has an incomparable recording quality and also preserves Feather’s intro for “Do Nothing”. Good news is that at least “I’ll Get By” has a video register that can be found in the 3-disc box “The Ultimate Collection” , vol. 3 – DVD “Film and TV Performances” (see Discography)

 


Live session #11 [radio broadcast] New York 24/May/1944  Noble Sissle And His Band (CD:Perfect Complete Collection vol.1)
Unknown Personnel (big band) Billie Holiday (v)

WMCA broadcast from the Apollo Theatre.

(LR 17) Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me *

Original record: LP Everybodys EV 3003 Live at the Apollo 1944-1947 (US 1987). Sound not available


Apollo_TheaterThe Apollo Theater is one of the most famous clubs for popular music in the United States, and certainly the most famous club associated almost exclusively with African-American performers. Located at 253 W. 125th Street in Harlem, the best-known black neighborhood in New York City and probably the country, the Apollo grew to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance of the pre-World War II years. In 1934, it introduced its regular Amateur Night shows. It is now run by a nonprofit organization, the Apollo Theater Foundation Inc. (© Wikipedia)

 


Live session #12 [radio broadcast] New York 25/June/1944 (CD: Perfect Complete Collection” vol.1)
Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers (t) Vick Dickenson, Benny Morton (tb) Edmond Hall (cl) Ben Webster (ts) Art Tatum (p) Al Casey (g) Slam Stewart (b) Arthur Trappier (d) Billie Holiday (v)

WMCA broadcast of the 17th program in the series New World A’ Coming, The Story Of Negro Music. The series was transmitted from 1944 to1957, in a total of 70 Sunday episodes. Narrated by African-American actor Canada Lee it also features that day Josh White and the Hall Johnson Choir. NWA’C was a politically incisive program on racial issues.

(LR 18) Fine And Mellow *

Original LP Totem 1037 On The Air (US 1981). Click here to listen.

(LR 19) All Of Me *  

Original LP Totem 1037 On The Air (US 1981). Click here to listen.


WMCA radio station from New York first went on the air on February 6, 1925, broadcasting from the McAlpin Hotel. In 1943 it was acquired by the Straus family.


Live session #13 [radio broadcast] New York 6/December/1944  Hot Lips Page and His Band (CD: “Perfect Complete Collection” vol.1)
Unknown Personnel (big band) Billie Holiday (v)

WMCA Apollo Theatre Broadcast (see comments on previous two sessions)

(LR 20) I’ll Be Seeing You *

Unissued in vinyl.


© www.billieholidaysongs.com February 2017

2 thoughts on “1944 sessions

  1. Three personal highlights from this year:

    1) My Old Flame: Awful composition but I love her phrasing of “gent” and “elegant” to make them rhyme.

    2) Embraceable You: How she sings “Don’t be a naughty baby”, especially given her own yearning to be a mother.

    3) Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me: how she sings “When we’re apart”, making it soar

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