Happy 100th Birthday Billie Holiday!

a-billie-holiday

Billie Holiday.

07.04.191517.07.1959

God Bless The Child

Voice: Billie Holiday

Composition: Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog Jr. c. 1939

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Fine and Mellow

Written: Billie Holiday c. 1939

Live TV recording 1957.

Voice: Billie Holiday

Piano: Mal Waldon

Double Bass: Milt Hinton

Guitar: Danny Barker

Tenor Saxophone: BenWebster & Lester Young & Coleman Hawkins

Baritone Saxophone: Gerry Mulligan

Trombone: Vic Dickenson

Trumpet: Doc Cheatham & Roy Eldridge

Drums: Osie Johnson

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Strange Fruit

Written: Abel Meeropol c. 1937

Composition: Billie Holiday c. 1939

Voice: Billie Holiday.

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Lover Man, Oh Where Can You Be.

Written: Jimmy Davis & Roger Ramirez & James Sherman c. 1941

Live performance 1958, Oakdale Music Theater, Wallingford, Connecticut.

Voice: Billie Holiday

Piano: Mal Waldron

Bass: Milt Hinton

Trumpet: Buck Clayton

Drums: Don Lamond

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One of my all-time favourite Billie Holiday tunes.  I first fell in love with it whilst working at the Underground Railroad Restaurant on King Street East just west of Sherbourne Street back in the late 1970s – all whilst finding time to run around the city taking ballet class and studying in high school then later at York University – when Salome Bey was doing her Cabaret show and her husband, Howard Matthews was part owner, along with Jazz drummer, Archie Alleyne.  There was an intense and wonderful Jazz education!

Too, there was that memorable Sunday Brunch in late 1982 at the actress, Patricia Neal’s grand Upper West Side apartment which Merlin took on a short-term sublet.  Frederick Jones and his Puerto Rican-born lover were there, along with a couple of dancer friends of mine and, of course, fellow dancer and friend of Merlin’s, Miguel Godreau.

Merlin the night we met, Friday, October 1, 1982, had excused himself from dinner at the Afro-Cuban restaurant, around from my West 49th Street apartment, on 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen.  He had gone to make a phone call – ah yes, there was an age before the cellphone’s ubiquity – and cancelled getting together with Miguel.  They had been dating after Miguel had appeared in Ken Russell’s 1980 film, Altered States starring, William Hurt and who at that time was a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Just in case, I had proven an utter bore, Merlin had made alternate plans; however, after I had passed most of dinner to the groovy music massaging his burgeoning lap across the deuce from me with my nimbly dexterous pointed feet, Miguel did not stand a chance.

Besides, one does not exactly say no to one’s task companion when first meeting on the physical plane… again, especially when it was planned.  In any event, after fruit-filled pancakes drowned in Canadian maple syrup, Merlin and I – who by then had had multiple ménage-à-trois with Miguel – blew each other soft kisses whilst he sat admiringly looking at Miguel and me slow dance to this truly haunting tune.

Merlin almost never danced; however, our pas de deux between the sheets has left Merlin an unsurpassed lover of magical skills.

Happy Birthday Billie Holiday and, wherever you are, may your current incarnation be a most blessed lucid dream.  You know, I really ought to do her overleaves…

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© 2013-2022 Arvin da Brgha.  All Rights Reserved.

Strange Fruit… The Gold Standard.

© 1992 Diana Ross Live

© 1993 Diana Ross Live.  Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings… Jazz and Blues.

Bass: Ron Carter

Trumpet: Jon Faddis

Trumpet: Roy Hargrove

Without doubt, the strongest Diana Ross live performance ever.  Poignant.  Moving.  Those large beauteous eyes mirror a lot of pain and rage during its performance.  Again, if you can’t sing it because you know damn well you can’t, why bother wasting the time on the likes of you?

A true mystery to me it remains why when one hates Blacks with such unbridled passion, one would end up squatting all over Black culture, Jazz, as though it were the latest Settler craze.  More to the point, there are no racially predatory persons creating Haida or Inuit art… and with good reason; then again, neither are expressions of Black creative genius.  Culture is a non-negotiable.

Alas, there is the racial predator aggressively overrunning the culture then turning around and acting as though to somehow include Blacks in Jazz – which after all one has already declared does have its roots in Klezmer – is tantamount to the Oscars where every 3/4 centuries or so, one will deign to consider tossing a best actress Oscar a Black female’s way.

The same Black female whom, in this the new age of minstrelsy, Diana Krall in her invisible blackface can never proximate.  However, this is about market share and having the right look and simply getting the lion’s share of fame and fortune for being born of the womb of the racial predator.  La Krall who in the pop idiom would have never risen stratospherically to the heights she has; certainly, she would never have had more than a second album.

She is a marvellous enigma – an icon in that sense for what she represents.  “I can get more market share than you” and that’s that.  She is cold and sterile like the gun that gunned down way too many young Black men – like the gun that set Ferguson, Missouri ablaze – whose lives clearly do not matter to some.  To see what a true fraud La Krall is – she who seemed nothing more than a venereal wart on Oscar Peterson’s arse, an arse which was too good to be wiped by mere Blacks when finally he was parked in palliative care – just listen to her do a damn good Joni Mitchell impersonation on her current album.

Sitting there at the piano, botoxed within a breath of being on view in her casket, La Krall coolly cops that ‘phuch ewe’ swagger she owns so well – just as Eminem does.  Yes, indeed, it is all about money and as race ever trumps either class or reason, there she drifts through life in Bentleys where others, the real McCoys, can hardly afford a Lada.

Again, why should we Blacks culturally settle for a Lada when we can, by right, damn well afford a Bentley?  Alas, who knows whether Cassandra Wilson is dead or alive anymore?

More than ever, these pale imitators no more give a damn about Blacks or Black culture than the next Klansman.  Roberta Gambarini is the best impersonator of Carmen McRae going… nothing more.  There they squat, this elephantine, oppressive presence all over Jazz, pulling an Eric Garner thereby suffocating and stifling the very breath of Black culture.  Seriously, who are Emilie-Claire Barlow, Holly Cole, Sophie Milman but mirrors of the grudging contempt for which one holds Blacks and Black culture.

Never once did I, or Merlin and I for that matter, manage to gain entry into Montréal Jazz Bistro when it sat on Sherbourne Street.  Indeed, the one time, we made it to George’s Spaghetti house, having previously tried to without success, was as the guests of David Tipe; the evening was cut short after a stranger wondered over to the table where we sat and in the midst of making small-talk blurted out something about ‘niggers’.

Without the support from the moneyed classes, there can be no arts, no culture.  Racism is economics and the result of the focussed economic oppression of Blacks – all fostered by the demonisation, marginalisation and dismissal of Blacks, in particular Black males, by a cinema/television culture, the architects of whom are the same persons who squat all over the culture and would be so smug as to blithely claim on live radio that Jazz has its roots in Klezmer.  Some alternate reality that.

Thank goodness there was a strong Black middle class, little more than a century ago, without which there would have been no birth of Jazz.  No Coltrane, no Ellington, no Mingus and on and on and on.  There has been a steadfast erosion to near obliteration of the Black middle classes such that anyone today without an awareness of music history would think it incredulous that Blacks should claim to be the innovators of Jazz.

Naturally, of course, the same cinematic agendum that would keep Blacks all but invisible and extinct when not risible, violent and or marginalised has never once seen fit to have cinematically documented the lives of any of these true geniuses of Jazz which one keeps claiming is a true American art form, yet until Michelle Obama took up residency in the White House, it had never before been performed therein.

Black history month is about celebrating and most of all it is about never for a nanosecond losing sight of who the racial predator is and despite Nikki Yanofsky – the darling little Montréalaise with the bought career – claiming, “Oh Ella we love you!” well to channel the very spirit of Frederick ‘Mr. Hat’ Jones, I declare, “Bitch please.  Ella don’t give no damn if you can turn piss into wine.  We ain’t having it!”

Sing Strange Fruit or just go make country music; an idiom, I might add, where you never see Blacks claiming ownership thereof or time-wasting patronising.  After all, Country is the music of the very people about whom Strange Fruit was penned.

Alas, your racially predatory animus is so intense that you can’t but squat all over the culture, with total disregard, and thereby make it your own.  Besides, what do you care what we think?

Go on, go ahead, let’s see you sing Strange Fruit with all the pain and rage as Diana Ross… to say nothing of Billie Holiday.  

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© 2013-2022 Arvin da Brgha.  All Rights Reserved.