Weekend Extra: Billie Travelin’ Light

Trummy Young and Johnny Mercer wrote “Travelin’ Light.” Billie Holiday owned it. This version with an unidentified pianist was made in Paris in 1959, the year she died. It is one of her most affecting treatments of a song that became one of her signature pieces.

For more about Billie and “Travelin’ Light,” including her original recording of the song and an unusual version by Chet Baker, visit Bruno Leicht’s new blog entry.

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  1. Rob D says

    My favourite singer in jazz. I have the Columbia box set and not a week goes by that I don’t put one of the CD’s on. After listening to a lot of pop music in the car, it’s like a cleansing of the palette. Her young voice goes straight through me to the soul.

    My wife can’t do anything around the house when Billie is singing. There is a quality to her voice that just rivets her attention and she can’t pin it down. I am sure there are many more singers with better talents, stronger voices etc who would come out on top in any other musical measurement. But like Miles, she sends darts to my heart.

  2. Jim Brown says

    One of her most affecting treatments indeed! But then Billie’s last studio sessions that produced the 1959 MGM LP called simply “Billie Holiday” are also grabbers, every one of them. As in the video track, her voice is a shadow of what it once was, but she’s in tune throughout, is in complete control of her performance, she’s doing good tunes that are not part of her repertoire, and her treatment of them is beyond masterful. Like nearly all Billie fans I love her early recordings with Teddy’s band and Prez and the great small group Verve recordings of the 50s, but these 1959 performances are emotionally compelling beyond description. My favorite from these sessions, “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” pretty much says it all.

  3. says

    “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” has one of the most beautiful (and too short) alto solos of Mr. Gene Quill. I always imagine Bird when I hear this. Alas, it’s indeed very emotional, almost painful to listen to it, and so I rarely play the album. Anyway, will spin it right now, on a real turntable of course.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Quill (1927-1988) was a brilliant member of the generation of alto saxophonists profoundly influenced by Charlie Parker. Like his frequent alto partner Phil Woods, he developed individuality to the point where informed listeners could easily identify him. Yet, he never escaped charges of imitation. An enduring piece of 1950s jazz lore concerns the time a customer in a club approached Quill at the end of a set and said, “You know, all you do is play like Charlie Parker.” Quill unhooked his horn from its strap, handed it to the man and said, “Here, you play like Charlie Parker.”