Personnel includes: Billie Holiday (vocals); Bill Stegmeyer, Milter Yaner (alto saxophone, clarinet); Toots Mondello, Al Klink, Lem Davis (alto saxophone); Lester Young, Budd Johnson, Hank Ross, Art Drellinger, Armand Camgros (tenor saxophone); Stan Webb (baritone saxophone); Billy Butterfield, Bobby Hackett, Buck Clayton, Russ Case, Joe Guy (trumpet); Dickie Wells, Henderson Chambers (trombone); Horace Henderson, Bobby Tucker, Sammy Benskin, Bernie Leighton (piano); Mundell Lowe, Tiny Grimes, Tony Mottola (guitar); George Duvivier, John Simmons, John Levy, Bob Haggart (bass); Shadow Wilson, Denzil Best, Sid Catlett, Norris "Bunny" Shawker, Specs Powell, Cozy Cole, Nick Fatool (drums); The Gordon Jenkins Singers (background vocals).
Producers include: Milt Gabler.
Compilation producer: Andy McKaie.
Recorded between 1944 and 1950. Includes liner notes by Steven Lasker and an interview with Milt Gabler by Andy McKaie.
Early Billie Holliday recordings are pretty bulletproof stuff, and this collection is no exception. Holliday's work from the Thirties and early Forties was done primarily for Columbia in the first place, so everything here is first rate and well documented. The tunes we now think of as standards became just that because singers of Holliday's calibre took them from the sometimes pedestrian musical revues they were written for and turned them into vehicles for intense personal and musical expression. It didn't hurt that she was working with some of the very best musicians of the swing era, either. Teddy Wilson's orchestra alone included, for one of the dates heard here, Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman and Ben Webster; another Wilson--led ensemble included Ellington stars Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney. Elsewhere, Holliday was joined by an early edition of the Basie band and by a small group featuring Buck Clayton, Lester Young and the Basie rhythm section. Set aside the stereotypes about Billie Holliday, Tragic Jazz Icon--on these early sides, her voice rings true, clear and flexible, effortlessly negotiating all the contours of her material with the unmistakeable joy of someone making great music.