July - September 2021
Billie Holiday -- Horace Silver
Disclaimer: I do not own the music. All rights go to their respective owners.
Eleanora Fagan known professionally as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz and swing music singer with a career spanning 26 years. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills. After a turbulent childhood, Holiday began singing in nightclubs in Harlem, where she was heard by producer John Hammond, who commended her voice. She signed a recording contract with Brunswick in 1935. Collaborations with Teddy Wilson yielded the hit "What a Little Moonlight Can Do", which became a jazz standard. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Holiday had mainstream success on labels such as Columbia and Decca. By the late 1940s, however, she was beset with legal troubles and drug abuse. After a short prison sentence, she performed at a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, but her reputation deteriorated because of her drug and alcohol problems. She was a successful concert performer throughout the 1950s with two further sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall. Because of personal struggles and an altered voice, her final recordings were met with mixed reaction but were mild commercial successes. Her final album, Lady in Satin, was released in 1958. Holiday died of cirrhosis on July 17, 1959 at age 44. She won four Grammy Awards, all of them posthumously, for Best Historical Album. She was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973. Lady Sings the Blues, a film about her life, starring Diana Ross, was released in 1972. She is the primary character in the play (later made into a film) Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill; the role was originated by Reenie Upchurch in 1986 and was played by Audra McDonald on Broadway and in the film. In 2017, Holiday was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silver was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, particularly in the hard bop style that he helped pioneer in the 1950s. After playing tenor saxophone and piano at school in Connecticut, Silver got his break on piano when his trio was recruited by Stan Getz in 1950. Silver soon moved to New York City, where he developed a reputation as a composer and for his bluesy playing. Frequent sideman recordings in the mid-1950s helped further, but it was his work with the Jazz Messengers, co-led by Art Blakey, that brought both his writing and playing most attention. Their Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers album contained Silver's first hit, "The Preacher". After leaving Blakey in 1956, Silver formed his own quintet, with what became the standard small group line-up of tenor saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums. Their public performances and frequent recordings for Blue Note Records increased Silver's popularity, even through changes of personnel. His most successful album was Song for My Father, made with two iterations of the quintet in 1963 and 1964. Silver was also busy recording as a sideman. In 1953, he was pianist on sessions led by Sonny Stitt, Howard McGhee, and Al Cohn, and, the following year, he played on albums by Art Farmer, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson and others. Silver won the Down Beat critics' new star award for piano players in 1954, and appeared at the first Newport Jazz Festival, substituting for John Lewis in the Modern Jazz Quartet. Silver's early 1950s recordings demonstrate that Powell was a major pianistic influence, but this had waned by the middle of the decade. In New York, Silver and Blakey co-founded the Jazz Messengers, a cooperatively-run group that initially recorded under various leaders and names. Their first two studio recordings, with Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, and Doug Watkins on bass, were made in late 1954 and early 1955 and were released as two 10-inch albums under Silver's name, then soon thereafter as the 12-inch Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers. This album contained Silver's first hit, "The Preacher". Unusually in Silver's career, recordings of concert performances were also released at this time, involving quintets at Birdland (1954) and the Café Bohemia (1955). This set of studio and concert recordings was pivotal in the development and defining of hard bop, which combined elements of blues,