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Billie Holiday - Remixed and Reimagined

Released on Sony Legacy, 8/7/07

The first lady of jazz is back…well, in a manner of speaking. Billie Holiday, one of the most talented and renowned female jazz crooners has some of her finest original recordings "remixed and reimagined" by a number of DJs, producers, and artists such as Tony Humphries, Nickodemus, Ladybug Mecca, DJ Logic, and a litany of others. Appropriately enough, this compilation is entitled Billie Holiday: Remixed and Reimagined.

Legacy recordings first introduced the concept with Nina Simone: Remixed and Reimagined. The idea behind this album was to reinterpret classic recordings for a new generation. The success of this original remixed album helped spawn Billie Holiday. It’s a bold idea on Legacy’s part given that Billie Holiday is synonymous with the golden age of 20th Century jazz.

Fortunately, purists as well as those new to Holiday’s work shouldn’t be too disappointed. One of the first tracks that grabs your attention from the get go is the infectious "Spreadin’ Rhythm Around". The original swing anthem is infused with some excellent hip hop flavor by Roland Richards and Ladybug Mecca (of Digable Planets fame). Billie’s original vocals mix nicely with the hip hop beats and periodic trumpet blasts.

In a more somber, melancholy vein is the reimagining of Holiday’s "Trav’lin’ All Alone". Saddled with woe, fatigue, and loneliness, "Trav’lin All Alone" is given a new twist at the hands of hip hop/funk/modern soul mixmasters, Nickodemus and Zeb. With an infusion of some sauntering percussion and some dub undercurrents, a dark track is made a bit more shadowy.

Far from lacking rhythm, "He Ain’t Got Rhythm" brings rhythm in spades. The post-rock pop outfit, Poppyseed brings their own rhythm to this classic track replete with trumpets and a distinctly latin beat. Poppyseed’s reimagining of this track has a sound not entirely dissimilar from tracks that populated Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints; there’s no shortage of rhythm in this track.

DJ Logic works some magic in his remixed version of "Glad to Be Unhappy". Unrequited love can suck and love in general can be more bitter than sweet sometimes, but in Billie’s world, the pleasure is worth the pain. DJ Logic takes this sweetly melancholy track and gives it a simmering funk/soul backbeat that mixes nicely with Holiday’s lyrics and vocals. Rounding things out are somber trumpet blasts in the background.

The remainder of Billie Holiday: Remixed and Reimagined is a wonderful mélange of jazzy grooves that are best played in a comfortable lounge with dimmed lighting, candles, a stiff drink, and romance in the air. For those unacquainted with Billie Holiday, this remixed and reimagined collection is a wonderful introduction to some of her finest work. The artists involved with this collection should be credited for maintaining the spirit of Holiday’s work while simultaneously putting a unique spin on it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars