Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Huang, Hao, and Rachel V. Huang. “Billie Holiday and Tempo Rubato: Understanding Rhythmic Expressivity.” Annual Review of Jazz Studies 7 (1996): 181-200.

Billie Holiday's recordings reveal a sophisticated use of tempo rubato, the slowing-down and speeding-up of a melody over a steady accompaniment. While Holiday's version of a tune rarely strays from the pitch material of the original, the rhythmic comparison is considerably more complex. Holiday tends to begin her lines or melodic fragments late relative to the accompaniment, yet she catches up to the accompaniment by the end of the passage. In fact, Holiday takes the given melody at a faster tempo than the original. Transcriptions of Holiday's recordings indicate that the ratio between her tempo and that of the accompaniment is as advanced as 6 to 5 or 7 to 5, a much higher ratio than similar procedures found in African, Afro-Cuban, and African-American music (such as the music of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith).

Works: Cole Porter: What is This Thing Called Love as performed by Billie Holiday (182-92) and Ella Fitzgerald (185-86); Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons (composers) and Billie Holiday (performer): All of Me (192-94).

Sources: Cole Porter: What is This Thing Called Love (182-92); Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons: All of Me (192-94).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Jazz

Contributed by: Nathan Blustein

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