Paul Whiteman (featuring Billie Holiday): Trav'lin Light
Paul Whiteman (featuring Billie Holiday)
Billie Holiday: Billie’s Blues (Blue Note 48786 )
Billie Holiday (vocals),
Monty Kelly, Larry Neill, Don Waddilove (trumpet); Skip Leighton, Murray McEachern, unknown (trombone); Alvy West, Dan D’Andre, Lennie Hartman, unknown (reeds); Buddy Weed (piano), Mike Pingitore (guitar), Artie Shapiro (bass), Willie Rodriguez (drums), unidentified strings.
Arranged by Jimmy Mundy. Conducted by Paul Whiteman.
Recorded: Los Angeles, June 12, 1942
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
This one-off recording with Paul Whiteman on the West Coast is a reminder of what an experienced big band singer Billie Holiday was. She had appeared on film with Duke Ellington’s orchestra, was a member of Ralph Cooper’s big band, played a series of dates with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra, appeared briefly with Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra, was a member of the Count Basie orchestra for almost a year, was with Artie’s Shaw’s orchestra for almost as long and had guested with Benny Goodman’s big band on radio by the time she recorded this neglected classic. The wonderfully languorous muted trombone of Skip Layton sets the mood for Holiday’s masterful vocal that follows. A good microphone picks up her voice at its peak and the way she subtly alters the melody and brings expressive weight to the lyric content is a great exposition of less-is-more. The lyrics tell a story of being unlucky in love, which was consistent with the character part that was now her nightclub persona. The tonal contrast of strings brings Holiday’s voice into sharp relief and touched an Achilles heel – the next time she recorded for a big record label she wanted strings.
Reviewer: Stuart Nicholson