Billie Holiday

Music for Torching

The overall feeling on this 1955 recording, which was originally titled VELVET MOOD, is strictly after-hours: the party is long over but a few close friends remain for nightcaps and, is that the sun peeking through the windowà? With slow tempo songs outnumbering not-so-slow songs fourteen to four, producer Norman Granz may or may not have had concept album on his mind. Whatever the case, he brought together a brilliant cross-section of cats who evidently put Billie entirely at ease and in the mood–no small feat when one considers her spotty later recordings.

Lady Day’s renderings here of “It Had to Be You” and “Isn’t This a Lovely Day?” are timeless gems. Other highlights include Harry “Sweets” Edison and Benny Carter taking turns answering Holiday’s vocalizations line by line, interviews in the liner notes with surviving members of the session, and a rehearsal track of Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” recorded the night before by the bass player in his basement.

–AllMusic