When contemporary culture acknowledges Bing Crosby at all, it is as a relic of ancient pop, his musical conservatism epitomized by "White Christmas." Happily, a new seven-disc Mosaic Records set reminds us that Crosby always swung without strain. In the mid-1950s, when he had apparently been eclipsed by Frank Sinatra, then by Elvis, Crosby was still singing splendidly. The often high-level melodrama of his early records had given way to a masterful casualness.
The 160 tracks in this set were recorded on tape for his daily radio show and find Crosby fronting pianist Buddy Cole's easy-going jazz quartet (anchored by the peerless drummer Nick Fatool). Crosby's commercial recordings showed him attempting to appeal to every constituency (thanks to Decca's Jack Kapp), thus singing hymns, cowboy songs, and forgettable pops.
Free at last to record what he liked, Crosby chose first-rate material: Rodgers, Warren, Duke, Waller, Berlin, Gershwin, Donaldson, Arlen, Youmans, Porter, a few Broadway standards. This set proves how much of a warm, unaffected jazz singer Crosby continued to be, subtly improvising on every track. A later session adds four hot horns to the quartetincluding the swashbuckling trombonist Abe Lincolnand places Crosby in the hip Dixieland ambiance he loved. Because of their intended audience, the performances will at first seem brief, and a dozen songs are beyond rescue. But Mosaic has again provided rare music in beautiful sound, with fine commentary from Crosby biographer Gary Giddins.
Mosaic sets are not meant to be listened to in a sitting, but these performances will help many listeners reevaluate their view of Crosby's jazz credentials. The music will also give pleasure long after the January sales have ended.
Track Listing: If I Give My Heart To You; Mandy; Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep; I'm A Fool to Care; Hey There; Anyone Can Fall In Love; I Need You Now; I Want To Be Happy; Keepin' Out of Mischief Now; But Not For Me; Honeysuckle Rose; The Nearness of You; Ain't Misbehavin'; Just You, Just Me; Once In A While; You Took Advantage Of Me; Ol' Man River; Thou Swell; S'Wonderful; Oh, Look At Me Now; I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm; All Through The Night; Taking A Chance On Love; We're In The Money; This Can't Be Love; I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me; Love Is The Sweetest Thing; Back In Your Own Backyard; I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan; Don't Take Your Love From Me; You're In Kentucky As Sure As You're Born; Young and Foolish; Tara's Theme; Sunday; That's All I Want From You; Unsuspecting Heart; A Man Chases A Girl; Melody of Love; Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup; How Important Can It Be?; I Hear Music; As Long As I Live; Try A Little Tenderness; What Is There To Say?; Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White; Danger! Heartbreak Ahead; In A Little Spanish Town; It's A Most Unusual Day; Unchained Melody; Something's Gotta Give; I Belong To You; Keep It Gay; Just A Baby's Prayer At Twilight; You Do Something To Me; Nice Work If You Can Get It; How Long Has This Been Going On?; 'Deed I Do; Cocktails For Two; Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea; How Am I To Know?; I Get A Kick Out of You; I See Your Face Before Me; The Lady Is A Tramp; I'm Yours; Get Happy; My Ideal; The Gypsy In My Soul; That's The Way Love Goes; I'll Never Say "Never Again" Again; It's All Right With Me; Serenade In The Night; Wake The Town and Tell The People; She's Funny That Way; If I May; Domani; I'll Never Stop Loving You; Goodnight, Sweet Dreams, Mary Lou; Love Me Or Leave Me; (You Gotta Have) Heart; Swanee; Shhh in Madrid; Avalon; Blue Star; Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing; The Tender Trap; My Blue Heaven; What Is This Thing Called Love?; When I Take My Sugar To Tea; Someone You Love; Avalon Town; There Should Be Rules; New Sun in the Sky; Love and Marriage; Merci Beaucoup; Way Down Yonder in New Orleans; Waitin' For The Evening Mail; Isle of Capri; I Feel A Song Comin' On; You're The Top; Breezin' Along With The Breeze; Anything Goes; Manhattan; From This Moment On; Yours; We'll Be Together Again; My Funny Valentine; Jeannine, I Dream Of Lilac Time; Carolina in the Morning; Crazy Rhythm; You Turned The Tables On Me; That Old Black Magic; Arrivederci Roma; No, Not Much; On the Alamo; Come Rain Or Come Shine; If You Can Dream; I Can't Get Started; Little Man, You've Had A Busy Day; I've Got A Crush On You; Margie; Yes, Sir, That's My Baby; The Object of My Affection; Sometimes I'm Happy; When My Baby Smiles At Me; I Got Rhythm; Just Around The Corner; Strike Up The Band; Muskrat Ramble; That's A-Plenty; At The Jazz Band Ball; Smiles; I'd Climb The Highest Mountain; My Baby Just Cares For Me; Fine and Dandy; Georgia On My Mind; Alabamy Bound; When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin Along; You're Driving Me Crazy; On The Street Where You Live; If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight; I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face; Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise; Too Marvelous for Words; Moonglow; Chinatown, My Chinatown; I Wish You Love; Lullaby of Broadway; I Almost Lost My Mind; You're Sensational; Then I'll Be Happy; Don't Blame Me; My Heart Stood Still; L'Amour, Toujours, L'Amour; Button Up Your Overcoat; Chicago; Get Me To The Church On Time; More Than You Know; Cheek to Cheek; I'm Confessin'; They Didn't Believe Me.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.