Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Metropolitan Jazz Octet: It’s Too Hot for Words– Celebrating Billie Holiday (Delmark)

A review of the group's album featuring Dee Alexander

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Metropolitan Jazz Octet, It's Too Hot for Words– Celebrating Billie Holiday
The cover of It’s Too Hot for Words– Celebrating Billie Holiday by the Metropolitan Jazz Octet

Billie Holiday tributes can get pretty lachrymose, but Chicago’s ebullient Dee Alexander is not one to throw a pity party. Here, as is her wont, she both honors her source material and reimagines it, aided by some brilliant arrangements as well as deft accompaniment (and first-rate solos) from the Metropolitan Jazz Octet. Although she doesn’t shy away from Holiday’s dark side, much of what she and the MJO offer is, in a word, fun, which isn’t always an adjective associated with Lady Day.          

Alexander brings her full armamentarium of nuance and emotional commitment to such romantic fare as “You’re So Desirable,” “Things Are Looking Up” (concluding with a characteristically audacious scat-soar into the stratosphere), “I Wished on the Moon,” and the title song, on which she unleashes a breathtaking improvisational tour de force that spans multiple octaves with unerring precision and daunting virtuosity. Even on a more melancholy outing like “The Blues Are Brewin’” she sounds less like a victim of heartbreak than a survivor ready to stare it down and sing—if not dance—in its face.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published

David Whiteis

David Whiteis is a critic, journalist, and author based in Chicago. He is the recipient of the Blues Foundation’s 2001 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Achievement in Journalism. His books include Southern Soul-Blues (U. of Illinois Press, 2013) and Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories (U. Of Illinois Press, 2006). He is currently at work completing a book on contemporary Chicago blues and a co-written autobiography of the late soul singer Denise LaSalle.