eMusic Review 0
In a sense, there was more than one Billie Holiday. Her career, her voice and her approach to material went through a series of iterations. Greatest Hits focuses largely on Billie in her prime, during a time when her voice was still buoyant, her tone still optimistic, and her phrasing more anticipatory than it was to become in later life. This is the Billie Holiday that gives lie to the stereotype of a jaded, world-weary addict whose expressiveness was conveyed by a hoarse whisper.
As compelling an artist as she was in her doomed later period, hearing Billie at the peak of her vocal power, before strategy overtook unmediated musicality, is a revelation. I'm not saying that the early Billie Holiday was better than the later one, but it's essential to get past her stereotype; Greatest Hits gives you the chance to do just that.
Four of the 13 tracks feature pianist Teddy Wilson's Orchestra. Wilson was, with the possible exception of Jimmy Rowles, Holiday's most responsive accompanist. He provided her with an elegant but ironclad setting that allowed her maximum rhythmic freedom. Holiday needed pianists who trusted her to always know where she was; Wilson understood how solid her… read more »