David Hajdu
December 11, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Complete Billie Holiday On Verve 1945-1959

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Billie Holiday
Producers
Verve
genre
Jazz, Pop

We gave it an A

She was all about what’s missing — the mystery in the space between the lines, the words unsaid, the notes cut short, the emotion held in check. Billie Holiday remains the most hypnotic of jazz singers because she traded in the art of suggestion. That’s exactly the opposite of the approach Verve takes to her career in this comprehensive CD encyclopedia of the last phase of Holiday’s life. Over the course of 715 minutes on 10 CDs, you get virtually every recording Lady Day made for Verve and MGM, plus live dates, studio outtakes, living-room rehearsals, even long conversations with other musicians. ”I do not got a legitimate voice,” she tells pianist Jimmy Rowles. ”This voice of mine’s a mess.” And it had become a glorious mess indeed — compelling for its flaws, unparalleled for her masterful use of them. It’s not that The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve 1945-1959 detracts from Holiday’s genius — nothing could — but a lot of what’s here is just beside the point. A

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