1959 sessions


The following three sessions – her last studio work – are a result of her contract with MGM, published in the LP Billie Holiday issued after her death. Apparently, she enjoyed the results of her previous work with Columbia and repeated the dose of mellifluous orchestral arrangements. The band have different compositions, and I personally prefer the third, with no harp and strings. It is a three-day section within about a week.

Session #87 New York 03/March/1959 Ray Ellis and his Orchestra (CD: The Complete BH on Verve, vol.10 tk 14-17)
Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Romeo Penque (as) / (ts) / (cl) Hank Jones (p/cello) Kenny Burrell (g) Joe Benjamin (b) Janet Putnam (harp) Osie Johnson (d) Billie Holiday (v) + strings

59-03-03_0756_ray_ellisWith the exception of the first track, all have an heavy arrangement and funereal tempo.




(MT 319) All The Way * [stereo] this was the sole recording by Billie from this composition by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy van Heusen. If not an standard, became unforgettable in the voice of Frank Sinatra in a recording at the Capitol Studios in LA, with Nelson Riddle Orchestra in August, 1957. Romeo Penque opens and does the obbligati and the solo. To tell you the truth, Billie goes well with the orchestra.

(MT 320) It’s Not For Me To Say [stereo]

(MT 321) I’ll Never Smile Again [stereo]

(MT 322) Just One More Chance [stereo]


Session #88 New York 04/March/1959 Ray Ellis and his Orchestra (CD: The Complete BH on Verve, vol.10 tk 18-21)
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison (tp) Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Gene Quill (as) Hank Jones (p) Barry Galbraith (g) Milt Hinton (b) Unknown harp Osie Johnson (d) Billie Holiday (v) + strings


(MT 323) When It’s Sleepy Time Down South  [stereo]

(MT 324) Don’t Worry ‘bout Me [stereo]

(MT 325) Sometimes I’m Happy [stereo]

(MT 326) You Took Advantage Of Me [stereo]


Session #89 New York 11/March/1959 Ray Ellis and his Orchestra (CD: The Complete BH on Verve, vol.10 tk 22-25)
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison Joe Wilder (tp) Billy Byers (tb) Al Cohn (ts) Danny Bank(bs) Hank Jones (p) Barry Galbraith (g) Milt Hinton (b) Osie Johnson (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Billie sounds a bit childish in this session – there are rumors that his voice track has been accelerated on purpose to disguise her tired spelling. Fortunately, there are no strings in this session, although they kept the heavy brass arrangement. The musical selection has four classic, although less-known songs that Billie recorded for the firs time.

(MT 327) There’ll Be Some Changes Made * [stereo] a song by the unknown W. Benton Overstreet & Billy Higgins. Edison opens with a short intro and, in the bridge, Al Cohn solos and track ends in an unusual way, in fade-out, in a duet between Cohn and Edison.

(MT 328) ‘Deed I Do * [stereo] composition by Walter Hirsch & Fred Rose

(MT 329) All Of You * [stereo] a recent composition by Cole Porter (1955)

(MT 330) Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home? ** [stereo] a song by Charles Warfield & Clarence Williams. Sweets Edison takes over the track: he does the introduction, the solo and the coda. Billie is all right and the nice swing helps to set that last studio track in her life. We could answer the song title: “Baby, we’ll be waiting for you to come home, thanks for all this joy!”

All the tracks are in the posthumous MGM LP Billie Holiday, but with a different track sequence (the original CD, issued years later, was titled Last Recording).

To listen to side A, click here:


To listen to side B, click here:



Live Session #66 [TV broadcast] London, UK 23/February/1959  Peter Knight Orchestra (CD: Perfect Complete Collection vol.12 & BH at Stratford ’57)
Mal Waldron (p) Others unknown, Billie Holiday (v)

59-02-23_london@She flew to England in February specially for the television appearance at the Chelsea at Nine. (This program premiered in 1957 and was last aired till 1960). Recording date might be February 25th as well and it was broadcast on March 1959. Her voice and performance indicated she was ill.

(LR 221) Porgy  
(LR 222) Please Don’t Talk About Me 
(LR 223) Strange Fruit 

Tracks unissued in vinyl. Videos can be seen in the links above.

Live Session #67 [radio broadcast] Boston, Massachusetts 15/April/1959 (CD: Perfect Complete Collection vol.12 and all, but #225, in the CD Lady Day Live)
Mal Waldron (p) Champ Jones (b) Roy Haynes (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Broadcast by station WMEX from George Wein’s Storyville Club (see note on live session #33). As her last studio recording took place in March, this is an historic session, being her last presentation. Unfortunately, nothing to be remembered.

(LR 224) Nice Work If You Can Get It
(LR 225) Willow Weep For Me
(LR 226) When Your Love Has Gone
(LR 227) Billie’s Blue (I Love My Man)
(LR 228) Too Marvelous For Words
(LR 229) Lover Come Back To Me

Original LP Giants of Jazz GOJ 1008 Giants 3 (US 1978). Sound not available.


Altogether, Billie recorded 229 live tracks in 26 years of her glorious career.

From April 20th to 26th, 1959, Billie was in the Boston Storyville Club, her last presentation, broadcasted live, including When Your Love Has Gone:

“What lonely hours, the evening shadows bring
What lonely hours, with memories lingering
Like faded flowers, life can’t mean anything
When your lover has gone”

Lester Young passed away in March 15th. By the end of May, Billie was taken to the hospital in NYC and died July 17th, age 44. Our love has gone.

© 2007-2017 www.billieholidaysongs.com February 2017

5 thoughts on “1959 sessions

  1. Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home? shows that she never lost her ability to swing or phrase. Even though her voice has ‘gone’, she is still in control of the rhythm and phrasing. Would have been a great recording had she done it in 1956, when she still had her tone.

    • Jon, thanks for sharing your comments. And for the opportunity to hear again some classics.
      All the best, stay in touch.

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