Billie Holiday's recording career can be viewed in three distinct phases. The singer's evolution begins with the Vocalion/OKeh/Columbia years, steadily maturing throughout the Commodore, Decca, and latter-day Columbia sessions, then ripening into music of incredible poignancy as she recorded almost exclusively with Norman Granz for his Clef and Verve labels during the 1950s. The material reissued on this disc, recorded during the spring and summer of 1952, presents Lady Day in full bloom. There is within each of these songs a powerful elegance that is both meditative and intoxicating. Here are the slow love songs, more relaxed than ever before, with magical turns of phrasing that rise above the band like smoke in the air. When the tempo picks up, as in the old Busby Berkeley number "I Only Have Eyes for You," Billie's trustworthy trumpeting pal Charlie Shavers injects a bit of mustard into the mix. But most of the material here is languid and the overall effect is that of a jazz lieder recital where songs are savored rather than being spooled out in haste. While most of the recordings conform to the three or three-and-a-half-minute range that had been dictated for years by the 10" 78-rpm record, "Everything I Have Is Yours" and "Autumn in New York" approach the four-minute mark, anticipating the emergence of the LP, a development that would allow jazz musicians to stretch out like never before. And "stretching out" is exactly what these people are doing as they carefully render these 21 songs of love and heartbreak.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf