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Bing Crosby: Bing With A Beat

David Rickert By

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They just don't write songs like "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter" anymore. It's a catchy melody combined with witty lyrics that conveys an innocent longing for love that would be inconceivable as a radio hit today. However, the same goes for just about any other song on Bing With A Beat.

But then they weren't really writing songs like that in 1957, either. That's when this album first appeared, and none of the songs were in heavy circulation among pop singers at the time. Only "Mack The Knife" still had some legs, thanks to versions recorded by Louis Armstrong (earlier) and Bobby Darin (later). But most are relics from the time when Bing first became famous, long forgotten by the artists whom he influenced.

Leave it to Crosby to resurrect these old tunes—tunes that he always wished he had recorded—to create his one true jazz album, a tribute to the music he always loved. Crosby had continued to record well into the fifties, straddling two generations with his blue-eyed, gentlemanly appeal. But where it would have been easy to sing over a lush Nelson Riddle-type orchestration—as he had already done—he hand-picked Bob Scobey and the rest of his Frisco Jazz Band to create a swinging Dixieland backing that has no strings at all. Dixieland was always Crosby's love, and while the presentation and song selection may seem a little trad, it's a tribute to the talents of Crosby and Scobey that the album works as well as it does and has an instant appeal today.

For one thing, Crosby sounds positively jubilant at the opportunity to sing these songs with the hot band behind him, and truly Bing With A Beat sounds like no other vocal album from the time period. Scobey and company rip through the choruses when given the chance and provide punchy backing when Crosby takes the mike. There's a snap in Crosby's delivery that wasn't always featured on previous recordings, but his strength was always making lyrics sound earnest. No one has written a song about "Waikiki" in years, but Crosby makes it sound like the hot new vacation spot.

In his book Jazz Singing Will Friedwald claims that Bing With A Beat is one of the top ten jazz vocal albums ever made. This may come as a surprise to those who never thought of Crosby as a jazz vocalist in the first place, but there's no denying that Armstrong and Sinatra both owe him debts in their rhythm and phrasing, and most of all the art of singing naturally. Top ten? Maybe. Leave it to Bing, though, to assert himself as capable of creating a jazz album that out-jazzes most of them.

Track Listing: 1. Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella 2. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter 3. Along the Way To Waikiki 4. Exactly Like You 5. Dream A Little Dream Of Me 6. Last Night on the Back Porch 7. Some Sunny Day 8. Whispering 9. Tell Me 10. Mack the Knife 11. Down Among the Sheltering Palms 12. Mama Loves Papa.

Personnel: Personnel: Bing Crosby - vocals; with Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band.

Title: Bing With A Beat | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Bluebird

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