5 late albums from Billie Holiday – all collected in one sweet set, in tiny LP-styled sleeves, too! First up is Lady Sings The Blues – possibly one of the most essential Billie Holiday albums for Verve – a set that carries the same title as her famous autobiography, and which also features many key numbers from her songbook at the time! The feel here is quite easygoing and relaxed – with small group backing behind Billie's vocals, which themselves are recorded cleanly and clearly throughout. One side features backing by a combo that includes Wynton Kelly
on piano, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Charlie Shavers on trumpet, and Paul Quinichette on tenor – and the other features a group that includes Bobby Tucker on piano, Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Barney Kessel on guitar, and the great Willie Smith on alto sax. Titles include plenty of classics – including "God Bless The Child", "Strange Fruit", "Lady Sings The Blues", "No Good Man", "Good Morning Heartache", "I Must Have That Man", and "Trav'lin' Light". Body & Soul is a great late small combo session by Billie – recorded in Hollywood with a group that includes Harry Edison, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel, Red Mitchell, and Alvin Stoller. The songs are short and swinging – with Billie at the top of her form on familiar standards like "Comes Love", "Darn That Dream", "Body & Soul", "They Can't Take That Away From Me", and "Embraceable You". A few tracks crack the 5 minute mark, making for some nice solos from Webster and Edison! Songs For Distingue Lovers is classic Verve work by Billie – and an album that probably brought the word "distingue" into the vocabulary of more people than any other use! (And in fact, probably also caused a lot more trouble with mispronunciation than any other Billie Holiday album title!) The tracks are slightly longer than usual – familiar songs like "Day In Day Out", "Stars Fell On Alabama", "A Foggy Day", and "Just One Of Those Things" – all given the amazing Holiday take, in a way that opens them up with more emotion than you might have thought possible! On Stay With Me, Billie sings in a warm relaxed setting, with great small combo backing, and piano by Mal Waldron. The record is one of the best we could recommend on the label – and it includes lots of nice tracks like "Everything Happens To Me", "I Wished On The Moon", and "Say It Isn't So". All Or Nothing At All is beautiful Billie from the last years of her life. The material was recorded in 1956 and 1957 in Hollywood, featuring Barney Kessel, Ben Wesbster, Harry Edison, and Jimmy Rowles – all grooving nicely in small group formation. The tracks have a wonderfully fragile quality – and although standards, are still some of Billie's nicest work for Verve. Titles include "April In Paris", "All Or Nothing At All", "We'll Be Together Again", and "But Not For Me". Great David Stone Martin cover, too!