Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Soul of Jazz

"Everything I do sing is part of my life."
--Billie Holiday

My wife likes to watch American Idol. I used to watch it with her when I could. Some of the contestants are pretty good in the sense of being able to sing with nearly perfect pitch and general vocal control. Some of the songs they sing, often interpretations of old standards, are even pretty entertaining. But I've been listening to Billie Holiday lately, and she is/was just incredible with the depth of feeling and meaning with which she suffused her singing. And now when I watch clips of American Idol or of performances from just about any pop or even jazz vocalist, the singers sound like mere pretenders. Billie Holiday was the real deal. And below is a clip of her singing with an awesome array of jazz talent. It was from a CBS program that aired in 1957, only a couple of years or so before she died, ravaged by drugs and disease. But she is still luminous and transcendently beautiful in body, soul, and voice in this remarkable video. I don't think I've ever seen a better music video or found a singer so captivating.

Billie Holiday sings "Fine and Mellow"

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