Billie Holiday: That Ole Devil Called Love


That Ole Devil Called Love


Billie Holiday (vocals)


The Complete Decca Recordings (GRP 601)

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Billie Holiday (vocals), Hymie Schertzer (alto sax), Jack Cressy (alto sax), George Wettling (drums),

Larry Binyon (tenor sax), Dave Harris (tenor sax), Dave Bowman (piano), Carl Cress (guitar), Haig Stephens (bass) and unidentified six string players


Arranged and conducted by Toots Camarata. Composed by by Allan Roberts and Doris Fisher


Recorded: New York, November 8, 1944


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Just as Henri-Cartier-Bresson referred to the “decisive moment” that captured the perfect photographic image, here perhaps is a “lyric moment” that defined the singer in the character role she created for herself. Once again she sings about love and her man, but love can be an obsession, and it is from this standpoint she sings. There is a wonderful film noir quality about this performance, very much of its time, yet with a depth and universality that transcends its era. The instrumental backdrop framing the singer is quite different from her free-wheeling sides for Brunswick and Vocalion (Columbia), a decision by producer Milt Gabler, who consciously put her in a pop context to avoid competing with her past triumphs. The use of strings creates a fresh, and it must be said, wholly appropriate backdrop for her voice at this point in her career. The jazz elements of her singing – swing feel, syncopation, modifying the melodic line – are less important than the symmetry between words, rhythm and the authenticity she brings to her interpretation, the latter signified by the grain in her voice. Here she seems less concerned with a “jazz” presentation of the song, concentrating instead on meaning.

Reviewer: Stuart Nicholson

If you liked this track, also check out

Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit
Billie Holiday: Mean to Me
Billie Holiday: Me, Myself and I

Related Links

Billie Holiday: Rare and Live by Ted Gioia
The Dozens: Twelve Essential Billie Holiday Performances by Stuart Nicholson
Billie Holiday by Stuart Nicholson (from The Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians)


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