Back in 1957, Decca Records assigned photojournalist Jerry Dantzic to photograph Billie Holiday for an album cover (see The Blues Are Brewin’), and Dantzic opted to go to Newark, N.J., where Holiday was scheduled to perform at the jazz club Sugar Hill. Holiday was only in her early 40s, and less than two years later she would die in a Manhattan hospital while under house arrest for a narcotics offense. Her tragic death has added a mystique to her persona as a troubled yet gifted artist, but her talents were so considerable that her sound remains sui generis in American culture.
Holiday, likely influenced by Dantzic’s relationship with William Dufty (her friend and the co-author of her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues), gave the photographer nearly unprecedented access at the club—before, during and after her performances. Dantzic also followed her around Newark and captured her on a visit to the Dufty family’s apartment in Manhattan. This book of about 100 images from six days in 1957 gives us a unique look at one of the greatest jazz artists in history.