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Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Billie Holiday and the Big Bands

A spotlight on Lady Day's time fronting big bands, including those of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw.

Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Leonard Feather

Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and jazz critic Leonard Feather in 1945. Holiday sang with Ellington's big band ten years before this picture, when she appeared in his film "Symphony in Black."

On this show, we continue our celebration of Billie Holiday’s centennial year by looking at some work that she’s not generally known for: fronting a big band. Holiday grew out of the Big Band Era, yes, but many of her most well-known records feature small ensembles, like with Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra early in her career, or with her own orchestra a little later. We’ll hear some recordings she made with the big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and more, as well as some other rare broadcasts and recordings.

Music Heard On This Episode

Swing, Brother, Swing (Raymond/Bishop/Williams)
Count Basie and his Orchestra — Billie Holiday: The Legacy Box (1933–1958) (Sony, 1991)
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Swing, Brother, Swing (Raymond/Bishop/Williams)
Count Basie and his Orchestra — Billie Holiday: The Legacy Box (1933–1958) (Sony, 1991)
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Them There Eyes (Pinkard/Tracy/Tauber)
Billie Holiday — Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits (Verve, 1995)
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Saddest Tale (Ellington)
Duke Ellington — Very Best of Billie Holiday (Sony, 2008)

Notes: From Duke Ellington's 1935 film "Symphony in Black."

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They Can’t Take That Away From Me (Gershwin/Gershwin)
Count Basie and his Orchestra — Billie Holiday: The Legacy Box (1933–1958) (Sony, 1991)
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I Can’t Get Started (Duke/Gershwin)
Count Basie and his Orchestra — Billie Holiday: The Legacy Box (1933–1958) (Sony, 1991)
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Any Old Time (Shaw)
Artie Shaw — The Centennial Collection (RCA, 2004)
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I Cried for You (Arnheim/Lyman/Freed)
Benny Goodman — Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (Sony, 2001)
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Jeepers Creepers (Warren/Mercer)
Benny Goodman — Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (Sony, 2001)

Notes: Featuring Billie Holiday, Leo Watson, Johnny Mercer, and Martha Tilton

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Jeepers Creepers (Warren/Mercer)
Lester Young — The Jazz Giants Play Harry Warren: Lullaby of Broadway (Prestige, 1998)

Notes: Production Support Music

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Baby Get Lost (Feather)
Billie Holiday — Billie Holiday: The Complete Decca Recordings (Verve, 1991)

Notes: Midpoint Music Bed

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Your Mother’s Son-in-Law (Nichols/Holiner)
Benny Goodman — Billie Holiday: The Legacy Box (1933–1958) (Sony, 1991)

Notes: Her first commercial recording from 1933 with a "little" big band led by Benny Goodman.

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Travelin’ Light (Mundy/Young/Mercer)
Billie Holiday — Billie's Blues (Blue Note, 1991)
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Deep Song (Cory/Cross)
Billie Holiday — Billie Holiday: The Complete Decca Recordings (Verve, 1991)
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Easy Living (Rainger/Robin)
Billie Holiday — Billie Holiday: The Complete Decca Recordings (Verve, 1991)
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T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do (Robbins/Grainger)
Billie Holiday — Billie Holiday: The Complete Decca Recordings (Verve, 1991)
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Now or Never (Lewis/Holiday)
Billie Holiday — Billie Holiday: The Complete Decca Recordings (Verve, 1991)
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It’s Easy to Remember (Rodgers/Hart)
Billie Holiday — Lady in Satin (Columbia, 1997)

Notes: One of her last recordings from 1958, with Ray Ellis and his Orchestra

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It's Easy to Remember (Rodgers/Hart)
John Coltrane — Coltrane for Lovers (Verve, 2001)

Notes: Fade Out Music

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Mark Chilla

Mark Chilla, originally from Atlanta, GA, is the Production Director at WFIU, where he also hosts Ether Game and Afterglow. He studied music theory at Indiana University and taught various music theory courses at IU and Butler University. He enjoys film, woodworking, learning new instruments and the Beatles.

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