January 1957; the country was in the grip of “Elvis fever.” Later in the month, to much hysteria, he would make his first appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show on CBS.
Eleven months later, on Dec. 8th, another singer and group of musicians — no less important — assembled in a CBS studio for a live broadcast of The Sound of Jazz.
The singer was world-weary Billie Holiday, who not only sang the blues but lived them as well.
The musicians were some of the finest jazz men of their time including classic tenor sax kings, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Lester Young.
The highlight of the show was Billie singing her rendition of “Fine and Mellow.”
Even though Billie was at the end of her career many critics consider this one of her finest performances ever. And, indeed, one of the best live performances of jazz ever broadcast. I agree.
Watch Billie’s reaction (at 2:56) to Lester Young’s heartbreaking sax solo.