Billie Holiday - Live in Los Angeles - 1946

Billie Holiday - . . .and when she sang Strange Fruit, the audience sat in stunned silence.

Billie Holiday In Concert – 1946 – Past Daily Downbeat

Billie Holiday - Live in Los Angeles - 1946
Billie Holiday – . . .and when she sang Strange Fruit, the audience sat in stunned silence.

– Billie Holiday – In Concert – Embassy Theatre, Los Angeles – April 24, 1946 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Billie Holiday in concert this weekend. Relevant on a lot of levels; you can choose any or all you want to, Billie Holiday was a symbol, not only as an artist who overcame prejudice and demons (off and on), her story, struggles and message left an impact on the Music world that has only become more pronounced over the years. Popular during a time segregation was prevalent everywhere, even in the concert hall – struggling with a Heroin addiction that banned her from singing in certain cities (like New York where a Cabaret License was everything) and overcoming the prevailing attitudes towards Women, especially in music where a Female singer was marginalized and had to overcome enormous obstacles to break the mold of a pretty face that sat patiently waiting for her cue.

Those were times where odds were stacked against you; double if you were a Black Woman. And Billie Holiday’s struggles were the stuff of books and essays by the leading Jazz critics of the day.

This concert, from the Embassy Theatre in Los Angeles from 1946 is believed to be part of the series of concerts put on by Disc-Jockey and early promotor Gene Norman in which most were broadcast locally. The concerts themselves were groundbreaking because the audience was racially mixed, as were the musicians on stage. Many of the broadcasts from the Just Jazz series had been issued commercially and were significant in that they did a lot to promote small group Jazz and helped usher in Bop during the Post-World War 2 years. Norman was one of the prominent early promoters of “new music”, as well as doing his bit to further the cause of R&B to a White market, at a time when Rhythm & Blues was confined to “Race Music” labels and radio stations throughout the U.S.

But this Billie Holiday concert hasn’t been issued, and even though it’s a mystery why it wasn’t commercially released at the time, the fact that it exists at all is something to be exited about. Like the interview she did at KNX in L.A. in the mid-1950s that was never broadcast, so many of these documents have been lost over time – or are in hiding, waiting to be discovered and brought to the light of day. This is one of those documents that serves to shed further light on one of the great artists of our time.

Editors note: As is evidenced by the comments, there’s some confusion over the venue, the promoter and the actual date of this concert. I am only going on what’s in front of me and a certain amount of background. Needless to say, if someone has conclusive proof and an a-b comparison of the concerts, I’ll go with that. In the meantime . . .


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6 thoughts on “Billie Holiday In Concert – 1946 – Past Daily Downbeat

  1. I have this show on vinyl. The date given is 4-22-46 same as your date. However, it’s not Gene Norman, it’s Norman Granz, who promoted many west coast jazz shows lumped together under the title ‘Jazz At The Philharmonic’ even when they weren’t at LA’s old Philharmonic Hall as this wasn’t.

    1. I’m sure there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to West Coast concerts – in Los Angeles in the late 40s Gene Norman had the “Just Jazz” series which was broadcast from Olympic Auditorium (about a half-mile away from the old Philharmonic auditorium) or the Pasadena Civic Auditorium – it’s from that concert series I believe some of the Charlie Ventura and Wardell Grey concerts came from. Norman leased the Ventura masters to Decca and the Gray masters to the Bihari brothers to be issued on Crown and their offshoots. I’m not saying it wasn’t Norman Granz and it wasn’t a JATP concert, but in those days things were fast and loose and there was a lot of live Jazz happening all over the country. Granz had already established JATP as a brand, so it would be easy to lump a lot of other things in especially since, in 1946, Holiday was still on Decca to a degree. Great period of time for Jazz and a lot of stuff still to be unearthed. – G.

  2. My copy of the show was from a Verve LP in 1976 (that coupled it with the first 1944 Jazz at the Philharmonic show) and the notes indicated the tracks had been released before on the Billie album “Jazz Recital.”

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