1956 sessions


Session #75 New York 06/June/1956 Billie Holiday with Tony Scott & his Orchestra (CD The Complete BH on Verve, viol. 7 tk 1-4)
Charlie Shavers (tp) Tony Scott (cl) Paul Quinichette (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Kenny Burrell (g)Aaron Bell (b)Lennie Mc Browne (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Once again in New York, Norman Granz gathers an ensemble that was not used to work together. Tony Scott does the arrangements. Billie’s voice is rough and worn out. The tempo is kept slow maybe to preserve Billie but, oddly, there aren’t solos in the session. The three first tracks are remakes from 1930’s classics. However, this session flows very well, or, better yet, it flows wonderfully.

(MT 276) Lady Sings The Blues ***1/2 a composition by Billie Holiday & Herbie Nichols that she recorded many times, but only once in studio. One of my Lady Day’s favorites, although the arranger could have avoided the ‘shaversly’ opening repeated at the coda, both ‘over’ in his style – after all, I added the half-star, helped by Burrell’s obbligati (see also the November 10th ‘Extra Session’).

(MT 273) Trav’lin’ Light ***

(MT 274) I Must Have That Man ***

(MT 275) Some Other Spring *** one of Billie’s favorites, this is a song by Arthur Herzog, the lyrics by her friend Irene Kitchings, who was married to Teddy Wilson.

(MT 277 and MT 280 are from next session, but they were also printed in side A)

The image below is from side A of the original Verve LP Lady Sings The Blues. The six tracks are the ones above.  Click here to listen.

Session #76 New York 07/June/1956 Billie Holiday with Tony Scott & his Orchestra (CD The Complete BH on Verve, viol. 7 tk 5-8)
Charlie Shavers (tp) Tony Scott (cl) Paul Quinichette (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Kennie Burrell (g)Aaron Bell (b)Lennie Mc Browne (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Some say that this session was simply a continuation of the previous. Nevertheless, the nostalgic ambient from preceding session goes on, with four remakes from the 30’s and 40’s previous recordings. All minor compositions, all Billie’s favorites. The tempi are once again slow and there aren’t solos. Both sessions are conducted by Tony Scott, as Granz was traveling.

(MT 277) Strange Fruit – I have no sympathy by this song and here Billie goes in a funereal tempo, practically a cappella, with the piano backing intercalated from time to time by inappropriate ‘shaverian’ interventions (see also MT #117).

(MT 280) No Good Man *** the best track in the session, composition by Irene Higginbotham. See also #185 for a previous version.

>>(these two tracks you can hear in side A above)

(MT 278) God Bless The Child ** see also #149 & #213; this is the best of them all.

(MT 279) Good Morning Heartache ** a pleasant opening with Shavers in mute sharing with Quinichette (see also MT #184).

The image below is from side B of the original Verve LP Lady Sings The Blues. The first two tracks are the ones above. Click here to listen.

Session #77 Los Angeles 14/August/1956 Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra (Verve)
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison (tp) Ben Webster (ts) Jimmy Rowles (p) Barney Kessel (g) Joe Mondragon (b) Alvin Stoller (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Once again in Los Angeles, in the same environment she recorded most of her best tracks, Billie now records eight standards, out of them seven are new in her repertory. Granz is the producer.

(MT 281) Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me ***1/2 a composition by Duke Ellington, lyrics by Bob Russell, it’s a classic she has already recorded the previous year in New York (s.MT #255). Why this remake? The previous was already excellent! Maybe to give us the opportunity to compare Sweets Edison and Charlie Shavers… you tell me. Billie opens a cappella and Sweets Edison is excellent in his obbligati and so is Rowles. Ben Webster masters the bridge’s solo, he is back after 19 years, from 1937. A track that I prized three stars – plus a half as bonus. Memorable. Good that Granz programmed this remake (maybe because he was absent in the previous version?).

(MT 282) Cheek To Cheek *** an unforgettable standard by Irving Berlin, extremely jazziest. Edison masters the obbligati and Kessel doesn’t stay behind; Edison comes once more with an open instrument. Excellent. A curiosity is that, only two days later, Ella Fitzgerald would record the same song in a memorable partnership with Louis Armstrong.

(MT 283) Ill Wind ***1/2 here we have Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s lyrics in a song composed for the play Cotton Club in 1934. The tempo is slow and Kessel does the wonderful obbligati. In the bridge, Ben Webster fills the track with honey and Edison comes very close with an open trumpet. A lot of good music in a track 6’14″ long.

No (t)

(MT 284) Speak Low ** a rare Kurt Weill composition in Billie repertory. The track alternates ‘tea-dance’ and jazziest 4/4 rhythms, in an odd mixture. Kessel backs the first chorus and Webster the second. Jimmy Rowles performs a delicious bridge. A bit weird, but it works.

The image below is from side A of the original Verve LP All or Nothing at All. The first four tracks are the ones above.Click here to listen.

Session #78 Los Angeles 18/August/1956 Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra (Verve)
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison (tp) Ben Webster (ts) Jimmy Rowles (p) Barney Kessel (g) Joe Mondragon (b) Alvin Stoller (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Billie’s voice is not in its best moments. But, who cares? Listen this beauty and please forgive my excess of stars and adjectives.

(MT 286) All Or Nothing At All ***1/2 nobody sang as Billie this classic by Arthur Altman & Jack Lawrence. A jazziest tempo, involving, with Edison and Webster alternating the obbligati. In the bridge notice the rare guitar solo by Barney Kessel followed by Jimmy Rowles. A total 5’39″ of emotion. The half star goes as bonus to Kessel.

(MT 285) We’ll Be Together Again ***1/2 a jazz classic by Carl Fischer. Edison opens in duet with Kessel and Billie comes in backed by their obbligati. In the bridge, Webster pours his passion by Billie. In the final chorus, Webster resumes his obbligati. The bonus half star goes to Ben.

(MT 287) Sophisticated Lady **** another beautiful composition by Duke Ellington that matched perfectly the lyrics by Mitchell Parish & Irving Mills. The slow tempo begins with obbligati by Kessel and, in the bridge, it’s Ben Webster show. Perfect. One of my favorites, that’s why the fourth star exception. Ella Fitzgerald would record the same song in the next year although with less emotion, just compare both versions.

(MT 288) April In Paris *** a wonderful classic by Vernon Duke, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg. Billie recorded it better than anyone I know. Webster opens and Billie follows with Kessel’s obbligati.

The image below is from side B of the original Verve LP All or Nothing at All. The first four tracks are the ones above.Click here to listen.


Live Session #45 [TV Broadcast] New York, 10/February/1956 Skitch Henderson House Band (CD: Perfect Complete Collection vol.8)
prob. Doc Severinsen (tp), Al Klink (as), Lou McGarity (tb), Corky Hale (p) Billie Holiday (v)

Broadcast by NBC at the Steve Allen Tonite Show (aired from 1954 to 1957)

(LR 145) Ghost Of A Chance *
(LR 146) Please Don’t Talk About Me

Tracks unissued in vinyl.

Live Session #46 [TV broadcast] Los Angeles, 13/August/1956 – Stars Of Jazz Show
Corky Hale (p), Jules Bertaux (b), Robert Neel (d) Billie Holiday (voc) (CD: Perfect Complete Collection vol.9 & DVD box The Ultimate Collection; refer to discography)
(LR 151) Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone *

Click here to listen

(LR 152) Billie’s Blues *

Click here to listen

(LR 153) My Man ** all of them, specially the latter, deserve stars due the exceptional rendering.

Click here to listen

Original LP Calliope CAL-303 Sessions, Live (US 1956).

The three tracks are also included in the DVD The ultimate collection (see discography)

Stars of Jazz was a showcase for jazz music, hosted by Bobby Troup, a jazz pianist and songwriter. The show was aired weekly from 1956 till the end of 1958 on KABC in Los Angeles. He is the composer of “Route 66” and was married to the great vocalist Julie London. The three songs were broadcast – and videotaped! – a rarity in BH discography.  You can’t miss that, it’s pure emotion.

Live Session #47 [radio broadcast] New Jersey, 29/August/1956 (CD: Perfect Complete Collection vol.9)
Prob. Carl Drinkard (p), Unknown (b), (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Recorded from the Red Hill Inn at Pennsauken, New Jersey. Program Bandstand USA, radio Broadcast

(LR 147) Willow Weep For Me
(LR 148) I Only Have Eyes For You
(LR 149) My Man *
(LR 150) Please Don’t Talk About Me *

Original LP ESP 3003 B Radio & TV Broadcasts 1953-56 (US 1972). Note that side B disc has a printed image instead of the conventional list of songs. Sound not available.

Live Session #48 [radio broadcast] Washington, 27/October/1956 (CD: Perfect Complete Collection vol.9 or Broadcast Performances vol.3)
Prob. Carl Drinkard (p), Unknown (b), Eddie Phyfe (d) Billie Holiday (v)

This is a radio broadcast in Olivia Davis’s Patio Lounge, one of the leading jazz clubs in Washington.

(LR 154) Nice Work If You Can Get It
(LR 155) God Bless The Child
(LR 156) Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone
(LR 157) Don’t Explain

Original LP ESP 3006 Broadcast Performances 1956-58 (US 1973). Sound not available.

Note: Live Session #49: please refer to session LS #57A in 1958.

Live Session #50 [TV Broadcast] New York, 8/November/1956  Skitch Henderson Band (CD: Perfect Complete Collection vol.10 or Broadcast Performances vol.3)
Doc Severinsen ? (tp), Lou McGarity (tb), Al Klink (as), Carl Dinkard (p), Billie Holiday (voc)

Steve Allen Tonite Show. Program on NBC TV

(LR 160) Porgy

Original LP ESP 3006 Broadcast Performances 1956-58 (US 1973). Same as above.

Live session #51 [live recording] New York 10/November/1956 Carnegie Hall Concerto (CD: BH at Carnegie Hall & Complete BH on Verve vol.8 and also (except readings LR#161 and #164) in the box Perfect Complete Collection vol.10)

56-11-10_carnegie_hall*** Perhaps the best live recording session in Lady’s career, accompanied by several of her loyal companions. Billie is perfect, although the voice is failing. The show was planned to commemorate the edition of her autobiographic book “Lady Sings The Blues”, some paragraphs being read during the performance.The professional recording of the show resulted in an excellent sound quality. Two sessions were held that evening.

First Show (8:00pm)
Roy Eldridge (t) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Tony Scott (p) Kenny Burrell (g) Carson Smith(b) Chico Hamilton (d) Billie Holiday (v)
(Gilbert Millstein opens reading
(LR 162) Lady Sings The Blues *** Lady had already recorded this song this year in studio (see Studio Tracks #276); Roy Eldridge contribution makes it a better version.
Carl Drinkard (p) substitutes Tony Scott
(LR 163) Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do ** Eldridge does a brief introduction and Billie alternates the tempi in the middle of her chorus.
Gilbert Millstein reading with a fragment of Trav’lin’ Light in background.
(LR 165) Billie’s Blues ** always a pleasure
(LR 166) Body And Soul ** Eldridge introduces the theme and backs Billie in the obbligati together with Hawkins.
No (t) & (ts)
(LR 167) Don’t Explain ** In the central chorus, she and Drinkard perform the usual duet with rhythm interruptions. One of the her best renderings.

Original LP Verve 8410 A Carnegie Hall Concert (US ). Click here to listen.

Second Show (midnight)
Buck Clayton (t) Tony Scott (cl) Al Cohn (ts) Carl Drinkard (p) Kenny Burrell (g) Carson Smith(b) Chico Hamilton (d) Billie Holiday (v)
(LR 168) Yesterdays
(LR 169) Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone
(LR 170) I’ll Be Seeing You ** Billie recorded this song in studio only once, in 1944 (see Studio Tracks #165). However, this live performance is the best in her career.
(LR 171) My Man *** always a pleasure, this version is as good as the three studio recordings she made.
(LR 172) I Cried For You – Billie’s voice gets undulating.
(LR 173) Fine And Mellow *
(LR 174) I Cover The Waterfront *
(LR 175) What A Little Moonlight Can Do – what a little song like that does in this show?

Original LP Verve 8410 B Carnegie Hall Concert (US ). Click here to listen.

Note: special thanks to Tom Lowery for his help correcting the data.

© 2007-2017 www.billieholidaysongs.com February 2017

7 thoughts on “1956 sessions

  1. Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me from 14th August is my all-time favorite recording by any artist. I would especially mention Barney Kessel’s guitar phrases, which Billie seems to be conversing with. Ben Webster’s solo alternates between gentle and strong and is heart-breaking.

  2. The two songs from #49 do not date from 1954. TV Guide from states Billie sang them on Club Oasis TV Show w/MARTHA RAYE, NY, NY on April 12, 1958.

    Beyond that, the orchestration is nearly the same as the one on Lady in Satin. The song was chosen at the Colony Record Shop on the day it was recorded.

    Finally, listen to her voice on You’ve Changed here, and on the Art Ford Show version. Very much the same and very different from how she sounded in 1956.

  3. Also, The Woolworth Hour appearance is from Sept 27, 1957. I have a copy of the advertisement from that show. I also have ads from most other dates, and Lady did not appear on the show in 1956 so far as I can confirm. Certainly not on December 9, 1956.

    • Ref.: Woolworth Hour (LS #52)
      Bingo! Score: Tom 2 x 0 – I revisited my notes and found out that the show took place on Sept.22, 1957
      This is also the date in Lady Day’s Diary book.
      I will make the corrections.

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