It’s such a natural, the only surprise is that it’s taken this long: An album of Squirrel Nut Zippers alumnus Katharine Whalen singing nothing but songs by the late great jazz chanteuse Billie Holiday. The album is “To Hide a Heart That’s Blue,” available on Bandcamp, and it’s the first release under the name “Katharine Whalen’s Jazz Squad” in 22 years.
And it all began, as so many things do nowadays, with an interaction on social media.
“It started on Facebook when some random person messaged me and asked, ‘Hey, have you ever considered doing a jazz album of only Billie Holiday songs?’” Whalen says. “And no, I had not!”
Covering Lady Day isn’t entirely new territory for Whalen. Released in 1999, “Katharine Whalen’s Jazz Squad” had a number of Holiday standards among its dozen tracks, including “Deed I Do.” But all nine songs on “To Hide a Heart That’s Blue” are Holiday songs from a very specific era of her catalog, the 1930s with accompaniment from pianist Teddy Wilson.
“That was the very first stuff of hers I ever heard, and it’s always been a favorite,” Whalen says. “I’ve been trying to learn it for years. It was cool to make this project about that particular material, which I think is more obscure.