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A Musical Romance

4.9 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 30, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Romeo and Juliet...Eloise and Abelard...Tracy and Hepburn. These are among history's great romantic relationships, but perhaps the deepest of all romances - in all of American music, at any rate - was the one that was carried on in the recording studio between Billie Holiday (1915-1959) and Lester Young (1910-1959). "Lady Day" and "The President" (they gave one another their nicknames) made a series of "sides," as they were called in those days, that to this day absolutely define love in tune. She was - and is - the greatest of all jazz vocalists. His tenor saxophone style delivered the real Birth of the Cool. Together, they sang and played with an unparalleled sense of intimacy, warmth, and sensuous, behind-the-beat swing, whether the melody was pure gold (like "The Man I Love," "Time On My Hands") or closer to brass ("When You're Smiling," "Back In Your Own Backyard"). Originally produced by the redoubtable John Hammond, and intended first and foremost for jukeboxes, these sixteen seminal performances have been culled from the Grammy-winning 10-CD boxed set Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia, 1933-1944. They also feature vital contributions from, among others, pianist-arranger Teddy Wilson, who served as leader on many of Holiday's record dates, Swing era superstar clarinetist Benny Goodman, ace trumpeter Buck Clayton (Young's cohort from Count Basie's definitive swing band), the sublime Ellingtonian alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, and Roy Eldridge, little giant of the trumpet. But Lady Day and Pres, forever dancing in the dark, make this a musical romance that will never die.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 30, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00006B1O6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,811 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Yeah, this is a really nice disc: it's about the best compilation of the tracks of Billie singing with Pres backing her up. Now, Billie sang with lots of fine musicians, and I'm not sure it's necessary to overemphasize the particular relationship between Billie and the Pres. In any case--as I've said--this is a really nice disc and a great compilation: the sound is absolutely excellent--plus, it seems to me that the producers have cannily increased the volume track ever so slightly, to give the Pres' solos that extra touch: if so, they've done an outstanding job!

A final note on this question of the "Fine and Mellow" track: the track featured here is a studio track recorded on 7 Dec. 1957 as a rehearsal for the following day's live telecast "The Sound of Jazz" (8 Dec. 1957).

The studio track (7 Dec. 1957) featured here is 6:19.

The live telecast track (8 Dec. 1957) is 8:46. (It can be found on Vol. 3, Billie Holiday Broadcast Performances [1956-58] on ZYX Music [Esp label] from Germany.)
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There has been much talk about Billie Holiday's voice. There's the sweet early voice, the mature voice of the later years, drug and whiskey-soaked, with the impeccable timing, and then there is this. Billie Holiday CDs flood my collection, but this remarkable collaboration stands alone as absolutely the finest. Cut after cut, it just keeps coming.
I've been anticipating it since I heard the praises of someone who was at the session, and raved about the melding, emotion and artistry generated between Billie Holiday and Lester Young. This session was a musical pinacle for two legends who were also lovers at their last rendevous. Everyone present knew it was the last, and became transfixed by the magic going down. Billie dug deep and came up with her finest. Buy this now, and be transported by the best of two giants of jazz...
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By George H. Soule on December 30, 2005
Format: Audio CD
This is a great compilation. Of course, everyone who knows the comprehensive nine CD collection from Columbia (The Quintessential Billie Holiday) will have favorites that are missing from this selected greats, but this disc is representative of the electric interaction of Lester Young and Billie Holiday. It really does record a musical romance. Songs like "This Years' Kisses" underpinned by Teddy Wilson's piano, Freddie Greene's guitar, Walter Page's bass and Jo Jones' drums are classics. Holiday is the legendary "Lady Day" and Young is her bolster and foil. She simply handles songs, takes them as her own and defines them--musically, emotionally, poetically. Her style is always her own and it's instantly recognizable. Billie Holiday defines rhythm, phrasing, meaning with a poignancy that cannot be matched. Or described. Young is her perfect accompanist. He too is lyrical, poignant, pointedly emotional. So here we have classic settings of "I Must Have That Man," "When You're Smiling," "Without Your Love," "He's Funny That Way," and Holiday's own "Fine and Mellow." There are other collections featuring Lester Young and Billie Holiday, but this one is certainly a respectable cross section. And it also has the added bonus of classic jazz accompaniment by Wilson, trumpeter Buck Clayton, Benny Goodman and other giants of the swing era.
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Format: Audio CD
"In their recordings, especially those from 1937 and 1938, their voices wound around one another like twin strands of some beautiful vine. At their best, they became, almost literally, one voice." ~ Tom Piazza ~

Every jazz lover knows that "Lady Day" was the nickname Lester Young gave to Billie Holiday and she called the great tenor saxophonist "Pres" - short for "The President." Together, they have made beautiful music as showcased in this essential CD, "A Musical Romance." It is a compilation of songs with beautiful melodies and dramatic lyrics they both recorded between 1937 and 1958 starting with one of the most-recorded gems from George and Ira Gershwin, "The Man I Love" highlighting Lester Young's remarkable sax solo.

Billie Holiday and Lester Young complement each other and their performances on all sixteen tracks are all winners. Likewise, all the song interpretations remained faithful to the very essence of this album's romantic theme. Ms. Holiday's unique vocals and Mr. Young's mastery of his favorite instrument blended so well to make an incredible chemistry. The result is truly "a musical romance."

One of the most incredible tracks is an exuberant and very pleasant version of "When You're Smiling." You'll also be delighted with "I'll Never Be The Same" recorded in 1937 showcasing Pres' stunningly beautiful obligato, and same is true with "He's Funny That Way."

Some of the greatest musicians involved in these recordings include Benny Goodman and Buster Bailey (clarinet), Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Teddy Wilson and Mal Waldron (piano), Harry Edison and Buck Clayton (trumpet), Freddie Green (guitar), Walter Page (string bass), Jo Jones (drums), Benny Morton (trombone), Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster (tenor sax), among others.
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Format: Audio CD
I was prompted to write this review in response to the mediocre review by another listener. These tracks include seminal recording dates organized by pianist Teddy Wilson, with the rhythm section of Jo Jones on drums, Walter Page on bass, and Freddie Green on rhythm guitar. In addition to Lester Young "The Prez" on tenor sax, soloists include Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpet. As indicated by the album title the interplay between Billie Holiday and Lester Young is incredible - The Prez is absolutely in synch with where Lady Day is going with the mood, and the talented ensemble moves with them. In particular give "Back In Your Own Backyard", "Me, Myself and I" and "A Sailboat in the Moonlight" a listen. If you have ears it doesn't get any better than this.
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