Holiday_ultimate_span3
September 2005

Billie Holiday
The Ultimate Collection
Hip-O Records

Like Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday has fared extremely well on the reissue front. Dozens of individual discs and all sorts of deluxe box sets fill stores shelves, chronicling every stage of her landmark career. But never has a single compilation—in this case comprising two CDs and a DVD assembled in commemoration of what would have been her 90th birthday—delivered so comprehensive a survey of significant sides (42 in all, spanning 1935–58) from her respective tenures with Columbia, Brunswick, Commodore, Okeh, Capitol, Clef, Decca, Aladdin and Verve. For the Holiday neophyte, it’s the finest introductory package imaginable. The real prize, though, particularly for those whose CD libraries already include extensive Holiday holdings, is the DVD.

Offering a wealth of treasures that includes her first appearance on film (with Duke Ellington in the 1935 short Saddest Tale), two numbers—“The Blues are Brewin’” and “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”—with Louis Armstrong from the 1947 film New Orleans, three sessions from host Bobby Troup’s 1956 ABC series Stars of Jazz and Holiday’s final appearance with Lester Young, performing “Fine and Mellow” on a CBS special from December 1957. Additionally, the DVD serves up five rare audio performances, a 1956 audio interview with Mike Wallace, vintage reminiscences from the likes of Billy Eckstine, Sylvia Syms, Jo Jones and Jimmy Rowles and more than 100 archival images.

Originally published in September 2005
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