The Commodore Master Takes, recorded for Milt Gabler's small independent label, were a step towards Holiday's eventual infamy, thanks notably to the recording of "Strange Fruit," a controversial song about lynching that Columbia Records simply refused. Recording with several small bands that seemed to understand the nuances of her voice perfectly, Holiday is in full command of her faculties here, without a trace of her later deterioration. Instead, we have a singer bearing all the bittersweet conviction of the best blues stylists. Songs like "How Am I to Know?" and "My Old Flame" simply smolder, and the band's support is understated, not overpowering. Holiday is the show here. In its own way, that sets a precedent, considering this was still the big-band era, and a jazz singer with such sparse backing was still an anomaly. Excellent liner notes by Orrin Keepnews,who explains how his own relationship with Billie Holiday was sometimes rocky,complete the picture.