God Bless the Child

Kim Nalley keeps Billie Holiday’s music alive

She passed away in 1959 at age 44, with a mere 70 cents in her bank account. By the end of her too brief, too tragic life, Billie Holiday had lost so many things: Her money had been swindled from her, her luminous looks were ravaged by heroin long before it was considered chic, and that distinctive voice had been shredded into a croaking testimony to hard living. But in her short time on this earth, she gifted the world with music that stands the test of time. “Lover Man.” “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.” The achingly vivid “Strange Fruit,” the song that launched a thousand civil rights activists into action. It takes a brave singer to take on her canon, but San Francisco’s Kim Nalley has made a career doing just that. Tonight she brings her act to the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club. Prepare to enter The Heart of Lady Day.

Not only does Nalley look like Holiday -- down to the artfully pinned spray of creamy gardenias -- but also she effortlessly captures the legend’s voice, even its tremulous warble. Her versions of Holiday’s love songs have their own, satisfying sizzle. Tonight at 8:00, savor the nostalgia and consider what might have been.
Sun., Oct. 21, 8 p.m., 2007

 
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