Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bing Crosby and Some Jazz Friends

Back in 2010 I began The Vintage Bandstand with a post about Bing Crosby, so it's only fitting that I'd start this new blog talking about Crosby as well, particularly because in my early teens, Der Bingle was one of my main gateways into jazz. Crosby, who is mostly known to the general public for his Christmas recordings these days (which is a sad state of affairs, in my opinion), was a jazz singer of the first order. When Crosby changed the face of popular singing forever in the early 1930s, he did so not only by mastering the use of the microphone, but also by inflecting pop music with the tones, the sensibility, and the rhythm of jazz. And throughout his career, he always enjoyed singing and recording in a jazz setting and with jazz musicians. The 1991 Decca compilation, Bing Crosby and Some Jazz Friends, is a great way to get introduced to the jazziest side of Crosby's output via a series of fantastic duets recorded in the 1930s and '40s.

Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby
As Crosby shares the studio with fine artists such as Jack Teagarden ("The Birth of the Blues"), Connie Boswell ("Basin Street Blues"), Woody Herman ("I Ain't Got Nobody"), Eddie Condon (two takes of "After You've Gone"), and Lionel Hampton ("On the Sunny Side of the Street"), we are reminded of how thoroughly the singer understood the jazz idiom and how relaxed and extremely hip his phrasing always was. Crosby's two sides with Louis Jordan, "Your Socks Don't Match" and "My Baby Said Yes," are two obvious highlights of this album, which also includes duets with his brother Bob Crosby ("When My Dreamboat Comes Home"), Lee Wiley ("I Still Suits Me") and Louis Armstrong on the semi-impromptu "Gone Fishin'." One of the most charming tracks features Crosby having a ball with Satchmo and Jimmy Dorsey on a very appealing reading of "Pennies from Heaven." Overall, this is a CD that all vocal jazz fans should own lest they forget that there was a jazzier side to Bing Crosby than can be heard on "White Christmas."

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