Billie Holiday: Solitude

Norman Granz found songs to match Holiday's mature voice in her debut album for him, along with star backing including Shavers, Peterson and Kessel


This album was originally issued as a 10-inch vinyl LP under the title Billie Holiday Sings, but later re-released as Solitude by Clef (later Verve) as a 12-inch album with the addition of some extra tracks. It was Holiday’s first studio session for the legendary Norman Granz and the first album not to be made up of singles.

The album received mixed responses, with several critics saying the results were uneven because of Holiday’s lifestyle. But Granz was no fool. He clearly knew that Holiday’s voice had changed and so made sure she had appropriate songs to perform. Using this approach, Holiday recorded many masterpieces during the six years 1952 to 1957. Norman Granz took great care in providing her with the very best of material from the American Songbook. Thus, she was able to record songs by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, etc, which she had never recorded before.

What Holiday’s voice lacked in youth by this time it more than made up for with experience. Who else could sing Cole Porter’s audacious Love For Sale and bring those words to life? Of course, the support of session musicians like Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel and Ray Brown helped enormously.

There is no doubt that Verve and Norman Granz were now marketing Holiday very differently to the way Decca had in earlier years. She was no longer being promoted as a youthful performer of popular songs, but as a wise jazz veteran who had her own stories to tell about life. Consequently, songs such as Ellington’s Solitude and Porter’s Easy To Love were perfect partners for Holiday.

Despite the morbidity and melancholy which is often associated with her performances, I find there is a lighter touch on many of these tracks, including You Turned The Tables On Me and Richard Rodger’s Blue Moon. If Holiday was suffering the effect of a lifetime of abuse at this recording, she does not show it.

This is a masterpiece of an album which any serious jazz collector of vinyl should own. It is proof, if it were needed, that Holiday was the ultimate survivor and that she should be venerated and never pitied.

East Of The Sun; Blue Moon; You Go To My Head; You Turned The Tables On Me; Easy To Love; These Foolish Things; I Only have Eyes For You; Solitude; Everything I Have Is Yours; Love For Sale; Moonglow; Tenderly; If The Moon Turns Green (39.05)
Holiday (v); Charlie Shavers (t); Flip Phillips (ts); Oscar Peterson (p); Barney Kessel (g); Ray Brown (b); Alvin Stoller, J.C. Heard (d). Los Angeles, May 1952.
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