Billie Holiday has been the victim of a good deal of dangerous adoration. She was copied by other singers during her lifetime and it has only increased mightily since her death in 1959. Emerson’s idea that “imitation is suicide” has never taken root with them.
So when a singer launches into FINE AND MELLOW, my usual reaction is to look for a hiding place, because in Billie’s case, what passes for homage is often toxic flattery. Many of her admirers have often caught only the most superficial aspects of her style: the feline growl, the behind-the-beat phrasing that often sounds as if a battery needs charging. Choosing the Doomed Heroin Madonna, they forget the joy she embodied.
But I am eagerly anticipating a performance of Billie’s music this coming Friday, May 15, 2015 — because I know the singer and the musicians are both respectful and true to their own essential selves. The singer is Miss Ida Blue, someone I’ve come to admire and love for her heated work with the Yerba Buena Stompers, and a wonderful band of New Yorkers who know what swing is: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jay Rattman, Dan Block, reeds; Conal Fowkes, piano; John Gill, guitar; Brian Nalepka, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums. Billie and the Basie-ites, but here and now. I can hear it now: a congenial group delivering their own thoughtful evocations of “such beautiful music.”
I suspect the theme for this evening will be less DON’T EXPLAIN and more GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE, and that suits me perfectly.
The show is at Joe’s Pub, and the doors open at 11 PM. Details here.
And while you’re leisurely getting your way to Friday, let this ring in your ears:
May your happiness increase!