Billie Holiday: Fine and Mellow (Sound of Jazz, 1957)


Fine and Mellow


Billie Holiday (vocals)


The Ultimate Collection (Hip-O 3918)

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Billie Holiday (vocals), Lester Young (tenor sax), Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Doc Cheatham (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Mal Waldron (piano), Osie Johnson (drums), Milt Hinton (bass), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Danny Barker (guitar).

Recorded: CBS television broadcast, New York, December 8, 1957


Rating: 99/100 (learn more)

This is generally acknowledged as the greatest jazz moment ever broadcast on national television. And with good reason. Billie Holiday is joined by an all-star band and delivers a deeply felt version of "Fine and Mellow." This was a song that Holiday seemed to sing better with the passing years - not a claim one could make for most of her repertoire. But this is a world-weary composition, and no lady was more worldly or weary than Billie Holiday, circa 1957. Lester Young delivers a touching solo that even moves the vocalist. His TV studio reunion with Holiday may have inspired him, but I have a hunch that the proximity of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster in the room (these being the real three tenors by the measure of any swing jazz fan) may have had something to do with it too. If TV were always this good, we could get rid of our iPods.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

Other reviews for this track:

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)


  • 1 Gary Hannon // Nov 10, 2008 at 01:16 AM
    Seemingly there wasn't a dry eye in the sound recording booth after Lester Young's solo. It is some of the saddest blues ever, and he is playing it straight to his old friend (old flame?), Billie. You can see that she understands exactly what he's saying to her, as she nods and smiles. Personally, it is one of the most moving solos I have ever heard. Roy Eldridge's trumpet solo is truly amazing too - so much feeling and effort went into it. He shows the full range of his instrument. If ever asked "What is jazz?", then this should be the first port of call.
  • 2 Tony // Jan 06, 2009 at 12:05 AM
    Not only does it not get any better than this, it's impossible for anyone singing and playing today to do anything to come close! I saw and heard this for the first time a few years ago and this beautiful lady made my cry. God, how I miss the jazz artists of the 40s through 70s. God bless you Bille Holiday.