BILLIE HOLLIDAY > Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles
This four-disc package, supplemented with a biographical essay and copious liner notes, would have earned its “timeless” rating even had it not anthologized all the most accessible and memorable work from the peak of Lady Day’s career. The 80 tracks collected here are extracted from the 2001 10-disc box set of her remastered complete work from 1933-44 for Columbia (and greatly expand upon the two-disc “best of” teaser that was released at the same time as the box). In an abundant but lucid way, this collection documents a number of critical moments in musical history. First and foremost would be the evolution of Billie’s voice, from growling blues aspirant to sophisticated renderer of the greatest American Songbook lyrics, then fresh off the press, to her inimitable manner of plunging into the unfathomable depths of heartbreak with the sparest, most eloquent phrasing and frailty ever on record. With Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, Johnny Hodges and countless other legendary instrumentalists behind her, this package also captures the era when jazz was most deeply intertwined with popular music.