Billie Holiday: Summertime




Billie Holiday (vocals)


The Quintessential Billie Holiday, Volume 2 (Columbia)

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Billie Holiday (vocals), Bunny Berigan (trumpet), Artie Shaw (clarinet),

Joe Bushkin (piano), Dick McDonough (guitar), Pete Peterson (bass), Cozy Cole (drums)


Composed by George Gershwin & DuBose Heyward


Recorded: New York, July 10, 1936


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Billie Holiday was not the first jazz artist to record "Summertime" (Bob Crosby recorded a transcription version five months earlier) but hers was the first recorded for 78s and probably did more than any other version to establish the song as a potential jazz standard. For any listener of the time who had heard "Summertime" in its operatic version, Holiday's rendition was a shock—raw and dirty with the rasp of Bunny Berigan's trumpet echoed in Holiday's voice. Holiday jettisons nearly the entire melody, flattening out the melodic contour to fit her voice and her artistic sense, and behind her, Berigan and Artie Shaw jam away, sensing even then that this new Gershwin song with its easy harmonic sequence would be a natural for the jazz repertoire.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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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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  • 1 Nicole // May 20, 2009 at 06:03 PM
    I love Billie Holiday and all of her music! I grew up listening to her as a child and my favorite film was her "Lady Sings the Blues" Icoan watch that over and over again, I think I know the whole script! Lol