Fine and Mellow

I’ve winnowed my “Now” playlist gradually down over the last few months, tossing almost everything that isn’t Billie Holiday. (A little Count Basie remains.) Billie’s pretty much telling me all I need to hear these days.

This clip, posted in multiple forms on YouTube, is from 1957, very late in her career. You can see that she is frail in body and spirit, and to me she seems to sing this blues, which she wrote in the late ’30s, with both yearning and acceptance.

The musicians supporting her are, like the clip itself, famously famous. You can check their names on YouTube if you’re interested, but maybe the best indication of their greatness is that the first two solos are Ben Webster handing off to Lester Young. You can see Billie, in close-up, receive Lester’s communication, and even if you don’t know the back story (radio piece below), it goes straight to the heart.

 Here’s an old but excellent NPR segment on this performance:

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