No list of the all-time great jazz vocalists would be complete without Billie Holiday at (or very, very near) the top. She is one of the most tragic figures in the history of music — resorting to prostitution as a young teenager, a lifelong battle with the drug addiction that would ultimately take her life at age 44 — but she managed to become one of the most beloved and influential singers to ever walk the planet.
Columbia Legacy celebrates Holiday’s 100th birthday (April 7, 2015) with “The Centennial Collection.” It’s a newly curated gathering of 20 songs that showcase “Lady Day” at her very best. These career-defining tracks were originally released between 1935-45 and are gathered together on a single disc for the first time.
“The Centennial Collection” features definitive recordings of classics like “Billie’s Blues,” “Summertime,” “I Must Have That Man,” “The Very Thought of You,” “All of Me,” “God Bless the Child,” “Gloomy Sunday,” “Strange Fruit” and “Fine and Mellow.” The only complaint I have, and it’s a minor one indeed, is that my favorite Holiday tune — “Autumn in New York” — is nowhere to be found. But that’s just me picking at nits. Do yourself a favor and get this album. (Jeffrey Sisk)