Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love From Dee Dee

Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love From Dee Dee

by Dee Dee Bridgewater
     
 
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Dee Dee Bridgewater chose to record a tribute album to Billie Holiday. In quick succession beginning in the mid-'90s Bridgewater cut tribute albums to Ella Fitzgerald, Horace Silver, and Kurt Weill, and prior to that, in the late '80s, she was nominated for an award

Overview

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Dee Dee Bridgewater chose to record a tribute album to Billie Holiday. In quick succession beginning in the mid-'90s Bridgewater cut tribute albums to Ella Fitzgerald, Horace Silver, and Kurt Weill, and prior to that, in the late '80s, she was nominated for an award for her one-woman star turn in a European theater production of Lady Day, the Holiday story. That Bridgewater would eventually turn to Holiday (whose given name of Eleanora Fagan explains the title) for an album-length exploration was almost a given -- it was just a question of when. It's one of her grandest efforts, too. With arrangements by Edsel Gomez (who also provides piano) and a stellar cast of participants including bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist/flutist/bass clarinetist James Carter, and drummer Lewis Nash, Bridgewater doesn't attempt to mimic Holiday's mannerisms or inflections but, as one would expect of such a gifted artist, to absorb and reframe Holiday -- this is pure Bridgewater, not another performance of Lady Day. Gomez, for his part, quite often pulls the arrangements squarely away from Holiday territory to reinvent these classic songs for a modern audience. The opening "Lady Sings the Blues" is both instantly recognizable yet freshly reconceived as something of an uptempo blues packed with polyrhythmic punch. "All of Me," which follows, is taken at near-breakneck speed, Bridgewater jumping ahead of the beat, following Carter's thrilling soprano sax solo with a raging scat that's more Ella than Billie. Not everything is meant to redefine, though: "God Bless the Child" is mostly true to the original, though Carter's soprano solo again brings the tune into the new century, and "Lover Man," though livelier than Holiday's take, is offered in a somewhat timeless and straightforward manner. As one might expect, there's no way a singer with Bridgewater's commitment to jazz history could release a Holiday tribute without tackling "Strange Fruit," the controversial anti-lynching landmark that remains Holiday's most daring moment, and it's saved for last here. It's an eerie, ominous interpretation, Bridgewater's raw vocal up front and fraught with emotion. Carter's brooding bass clarinet and McBride's bass lend a foreboding quality to the take, Nash relies heavily on his cymbals to dramatic effect, and Gomez's piano is subtle, allowing the nakedness of Bridgewater's voice -- at times unaccompanied -- to retell this story that can never be told enough. It's a stunning finale to one of the finest Billie Holiday homages ever recorded.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/02/2010
Label:
Emarcy
UPC:
0602527241555
catalogNumber:
001394502
Rank:
19705

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Dee Dee Bridgewater   Primary Artist,Vocals
Lewis Nash   Drums
James Carter   Bass Clarinet,Alto Flute,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Christian McBride   Bass
Edsel Gomez   Piano

Technical Credits

George Gershwin   Composer
Herbie Nichols   Composer
Billie Holiday   Composer
Dee Dee Bridgewater   Producer,Artistic Director
Ervin Drake   Composer
Ira Gershwin   Composer
Arthur Herzog   Composer
Ralph Rainger   Composer
Leo Robin   Composer
Schmitt   Engineer
Dan Ouellette   Liner Notes
Carl Fischer   Composer
Richard A. Whiting   Composer
Gerald Marks   Composer
Dan Fisher   Composer
Irene Higginbotham   Composer
Edsel Gomez   Arranger
Mann Holiner   Composer
Alberta Nichols   Composer
Lewis Allan   Composer
James Sherman   Composer
Tulani Bridgewater Kowalski   Graphic Supervision
Roger J. Ramirez   Composer
James Edward Davis   Composer
Seymour B. Simons   Composer
William "Bill" Carey   Composer

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