20 year old Billie Holiday sings in a first session with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra on July 2 1935 in New York. Next to Teddy on piano the All Star Band consists of Benny Goodman clarinet, Roy Eldridge trumpet, Ben Webster tenor sax, John Truehart guitar, John Kirby bass and Cozy Cole drums. Jazz promotor John Hammond heard Billie for the first time in New York’s Monette club in 1933 and wrote in Melody Maker: “Billie although only 18, she weighs over 200 lbs, is incredibly beautiful, and sings as well as anybody I ever heard”. Hammond told Benny Goodman, and the two went to this Monette club. Both were impressed and it was the start of Billie’s career.
Internet info can be shady, but this is what I found in regards to this recording. I don’t know how true it is, but it sounds legit. There’s just not that much known about Billie Holiday’s early years and the beginning of her career, at least by today’s supersaturated standards. Not that it matters in the end. It’s interesting to learn about the artist, of course, and it gives us greater understanding of the works. We know that Holiday had a horrible childhood, went through many bad relationships in adulthood, struggled with addiction for many years, and spent time in prison more than once. Yes, that explains why she sounds so mournful, why she wrote so many sad songs. But none of those facts would matter a whit if the songs didn’t have an impact of their own. Nobody buys a Billie Holiday record to hear the drug addict sing; we discover her records, then we want to learn more and we find out the troubles behind them. So it really doesn’t matter what we do or don’t know. A little shroud of mystery is nice.