Teddy Wilson Orchestra (with Billie Holiday): I Must Have That Man


I Must Have That Man


Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra with Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton, etc.


This is Jazz 26: Lester Young (Columbia-Legacy CK 65042)

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Billie Holiday (vocals), Lester Young (tenor sax), Benny Goodman (clarinet), Buck Clayton (trumpet),

Freddie Green (guitar), Walter Page (bass), Jo Jones (drums)


Composed by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh


Recorded: New York, January 25, 1937


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

From the first line of her vocal, Billie Holiday uses her unique intonation, exceptional phrasing and rhythm, and expressive capacity with words to exquisitely create the mood of this genuine classic, as well as to offer the first explanation of why she “must have that man.” Teddy Wilson gives us a brief, fitting intro, and then provides the piano backing for Billie in a restrained but perfectly attuned, effective manner. When she sings that great line, “He’s hot as hades, a lady’s [perfect little pause] not safe in his arms when she’s kissed” with perfect rhythm, phrasing and emotion, we feel the simmering heat. And she finishes the verse singing the thematic phrase in a way that manages to be subtle and awesome at the same time, singing a syncopated descending line, dripping with feeling, “I… must… have… that…man;” it’s like the final lines in a profoundly moving novel by a master fiction writer set to great music. This is a strong candidate for Billie Holiday’s greatest vocal performance.

But there’s more. As in "He Ain't Got Rhythm," the other classic recorded in the same session, Lester Young (“Prez”) follows Holiday’s verses on his tenor sax with one of the most sublimely beautiful solos in all of jazz, one which perfectly captures the mood and spirit of the music that Billie, with the band’s backing, had just created. This solo is the ultimate example of how that unique light, floating, slightly breathy, but oh-so-soulful saxophone tone and creative lines made Prez a revered and influential musician. Benny Goodman adds a very nicely constructed solo, excellently suited to the music. Then Buck Clayton blows a brilliant smooth (“legato”) but powerful clarion call on his trumpet that reiterates the musical theme with superb subtle variations. And behind all this glorious “front line” playing, that all star Basie rhythm section of Green, Page and Jones provides a great foundation.

This is not just masterful jazz, it is pure magic; it doesn’t get any better than this.

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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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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