Friday, July 6, 2012

Ten Essential Jazz Clarinet Recordings (7)

7. Billie Holiday * The Lady Sings * (1935-1949)


So often as a jazz clarinetist, I've longed to own a time machine, for a very specific purpose: I wish I could hear live the sounds of all my old heroes, and really know how to compare them with my own playing. Was Benny really that commanding? Was Irving Fazola's sound really that fat? Or are these effects of the microphone and my imagination.

This set of discs is probably the closest thing to that time machine, especially the first two. Most of the recording dates represented were arranged by John Hammond, that pioneer of racial equality in music, who contracted the players for the backing band to one of our country's greatest vocalists.

The personnel was different on each date, and contained a who's who of jazz musicians from the '30s--especially the featured clarinetists:

Benny Goodman
Artie Shaw
Irving Fazola
Buster Bailey
Edgar Sampson
Edmond Hall
Harry Carney
Jimmy Hamilton
and others.

Because these tunes were probably recorded under less then perfect conditions--probably one mic for the singer and band--we actually get to hear each clarinetists in the background, some distance from the mic. Hence we have the opportunity to hear something like their "real" projection, with the added benefit that we get to compare it to another great from the next track!

Of course Billie's singing is incredible too--an invaluable resource to any musician-- and the rest of the sidemen range from Teddy Wilson to Claude Thornhill, Harry James, Buck Clayton, Jo Jones--it's a feast for the swing fan.

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