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John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989

Thursday, November 03, 2005

New Pittsburgh Courier

New Pittsburgh CourierMellon Jazz presents Billie & Me

Tue Nov 1, 2005

PITTSBURGH – Mellon Jazz, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Three Rivers Arts Festival proudly present Billie & Me, an extraordinary tribute to the spirit and musical genius of legendary artist Billie Holiday.

On Thursday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m., the Byham Theater stage will be graced with a truly phenomenal line-up of some of the most inspirational women of our times: Rita Coolidge, Niki Haris, Joan Osborne, Dianne Reeves, Rokia Traoré, and Terri Lyne Carrington.

Tickets ($20, $34 and $42) are available at the Box Office at Theater Square, online at www.pgharts.org and by calling (412) 456-6666. WDUQ is the proud media sponsor of The Mellon Jazz Series.

The production, which debuted in front of sell-out audiences in London, combines live performances, readings and reinterpretations of Lady Day's repertoire with film and audio footage. Audiences will be taken on a journey from Billie’s beginnings growing up in the brothels of Baltimore, her early years performing for tips in the nightclubs of swinging Harlem, to the life of a hard-traveling musician with The Count Basie Orchestra and as a solo artist.

Billie & Me sets out to shine a positive light on one of the most influential figures in music and an icon of the 20th Century. While acknowledging the difficult life of a Black female artist making her way in the segregated, male-dominated world of the 1930s and ‘40s, the resulting concert reveals a far fuller profile of a complicated and fascinating woman. In short, an incredibly talented artist, band leader and composer -- a strong but flawed woman who lived the hard-working, hard-touring life of many jazz artists of the era (male and female). The result is a tribute to the single most important presence that haunts jazz singing even 45 years after her death, and a source of inspiration to generations of women since. Billie & Me makes a case for Holiday as a spokesperson for womankind and celebrates the legacy of a woman who lived the life she chose in a style she invented with a voice like no other.

“A reappraisal of Billie Holiday as a positive, complex, life-embracing genius rather than the usual tragic victim … a tour de force” (The Guardian, UK).

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