Personnel: Billie Holiday; Elise Bretton, Miriam Workman (soprano); Mike Pingatore, Everett Barksdale, Daniel Perry, Teddy Walters, Lawrence Lucie, Paul Chapman, John Trueheart, Kenny Burrell, Allan Reuss, Tony Mottola, Barry Galbraith, Mundell Lowe, Billy Bauer , Jimmy McLin, Carl Kress (guitar); Janet Putnam (harp); Leo Kruczek, George Ockner, Charles Jaffe, Frank Siefiels, George Serloff, Morris Lefkowitz (violin); Armand Karpoff (viola); David "Fathead" Newman , Harry Azen, Sol Blumenthal (strings); John Fulton (flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone); Bill Stegmeyer, Milt Yaner (clarinet, alto saxophone); Tony Scott , Buster Bailey (clarinet); Danny Bank, Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque (woodwinds); King Guion, Alvy West (saxophone); Lester Boone, Lem Davis, Jack Cressey, Jimmy Powell , Johnny Hodges, Johnny Mince, Sid Cooper, Tab Smith, Nuncio "Toots" Mondello, Willie Smith, Al Klink, Rudy Powell, George Dorsey, Hymie Schertzer (alto saxophone); Haywood Henry (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); Paul Ricci, Stanley Payne, Larry Binyon, Bob Dorsey, Pat Nizza, Kenneth Hollon, Armand Camgros, Hank Ross , Joe "Cornbread" Thomas , Ernie Powell, Bernard Kaufman, Al Cohn, Paul Quinichette, Art Drellinger, Budd Johnson (tenor saxophone); Harry Carney, Sol Moore, Stan Webb (baritone saxophone); Gordon Griffin, Don Waddilove, Emmett Berry, Frankie Newton, Larry Neill, Rostelle Reese, Joe Guy, Jonah Jones, Monty Kelly , Roy Eldridge, Russ Case, Billy Butterfield, Jimmy Nottingham, Bobby Hackett, Bernie Privin, Buck Clayton (trumpet); Dicky Wells, Tom Mitchell Jr., J.J. Johnson , Skip Layton, Murray McEachern, Urbie Green, George Matthews (trombone); Jimmy Rowles (piano, celesta); Joe Springer , Carl Drinkard, Buddy Weed, Horace Henderson, Mal Waldron, Sammy Benskin, Sonny White, Teddy Wilson, Wynton Kelly, Bernie Leighton, Billy Kyle , Billy Taylor , Bobby Tucker (piano); Joe Benjamin, John Levy (bass instrument); Chico Hamilton, Lenny McBrowne, Denzil Best, Eddie Dougherty, Herbert Cowans, Jimmy Crawford , Larry Bunker, Alvin Stoller, Osie Johnson, Shadow Wilson, Big Sid Catlett, Specs Powell, Willie Rodriguez, Norris "Bunny" Shawker, Johnny Blowers (drums); Phil Kraus (percussion); Louis Armstrong (vocals); Tiny Grimes, Barney Kessel (guitar); Benny Goodman (clarinet); Benny Carter (alto saxophone); Lester Young , Ben Webster (tenor saxophone); Doc Cheatham, Harry "Sweets" Edison , Charlie Shavers (trumpet); Vic Dickenson (trombone); Eddie Heywood, Dave Bowman , Oscar Peterson (piano); Cozy Cole (drums); Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra, Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra.
Liner Note Author: Ashley Kahn.
Recording information: Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (07/02/1935-01/08/1957); Los Angeles, CA (07/02/1935-01/08/1957); New York, NY (07/02/1935-01/08/1957).
Directors: Eddie Heywood; Gordon Jenkins; John Simmons ; Sy Oliver; Toots Camarata; Bill Stegmeyer; Bob Haggart; Buster Harding.
Photographers: Duncan P. Schiedt; Charles Peterson ; Chuck Stewart.
Arrangers: Gordon Jenkins; Jimmy Mundy; Ray Ellis; Sy Oliver.
Meticulously selected, lovingly assembled, and beautifully packaged, this two-CD/one-DVD collection is a true retrospective, featuring representative cuts from the length of Billie Holiday's career across a range of labels. While most compilations focus on one period of the legendary singer's career, THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION includes recordings Holiday cut for Decca, Verve, Columbia, Commodore, and others. The backing bands range from small combos to large ensembles, and include such luminaries as Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Johnny Hodges, Louis Armstrong, and Lester Young.
The set begins with Holiday's 1935 Brunswick dates. The chronological arrangement allows the listener to observe the transformation of Holiday's vocal style, from the light, buoyant early work through her definitive '40s middle period and on to her final sessions from the late '50s, when her voice was broken and life-torn. No matter the phase, Holiday's performances are masterful, gripping, and immediately seductive (not to mention--in cases like the 1939 recording of "Strange Fruit"--historically important). The DVD, which features 10 television and film performances, a timeline, and bonus audio features, is almost too good to be believed. Opinions will continue to differ about the "greatest female jazz vocalist," but be warned: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION might make any case but Lady Day's hard to argue.