This is a great time to be a Bing Crosby fan, as the singer’s estate continues to mine the Crosby vaults for rare goodies and releasing them on CD. The latest duo: a reissue of one of my favorite albums by Der Bingle, New Tricks (1957), featuring the Buddy Cole Trio. Bing is completely at ease revisiting such old chestnuts as “Alabammy Bound,” “On the Alamo,” and “When I Take my Sugar to Tea.” They’ve been beautifully remastered and augmented by a dozen equally enjoyable bonus tracks. There’s also a new compilation called Among My Souvenirs: More Treasures from the Crosby Archive. This two-disc album includes promos for such films as The Big Broadcast and Too Much Harmony, radio transcriptions of songs Bing never recorded commercially, private material unintended for public use, and two fascinating nuggets from the tail end of Crosby’s career: a medley with Diana Ross and the Supremes and a live rendition of Steven Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” You can find these and much more at the entertainer’s official website, www.bingcrosby.com, where Bing’s radio shows stream nonstop. Kudos to producer Robert Bader for his untiring efforts on behalf of Bing Crosby.
Speaking of CDs (yes, I still buy them), I can’t resist spreading the word about a new release from Jeff Hamilton, Live from San Pedro (Capri Records). Jeff is one of the great drummers of our time and he’s been playing with two fellow virtuosos, pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty, for seventeen years. After all this time they speak with one voice, producing tasty music that’s easy to listen to but always fresh and exciting. You’ll hear familiar songs like “I Have Dreamed” and the bebop anthem “In Walked Bud” as well as some originals. The presence of a live audience inspires all three musicians and the results are a joyful sampling of mainstream jazz.
I’ve also been dipping into Will Friedwald’s majestic tome The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums (Pantheon). I usually read books start to finish, but there is so much to digest in this 432-page, double-column volume that I prefer to take in just a few chapters at a time. Like any list-oriented book this one is bound to stimulate some debate but there’s no question that Will’s choices represent the pinnacle of 20th century pop and jazz. You’ll find all the singers you’d expect, from Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee to Mel Tormé and Ella Fitzgerald. The book also serves as an insightful history of the long-playing album and how it affected the presentation of popular music. (He includes some recent samples to bring things up to date.) The colorfully descriptive prose makes songs and performances come to life on the printed page—and impel me to check out some records I haven’t heard before by the likes of Dick Haymes, Kay Starr, Dinah Washington, and Maxine Sullivan. Will’s writing also makes me laugh out loud, which is a nice bonus in a book that’s so informative. I look forward to the upcoming revised edition of my favorite Friedwald endeavor, Sinatra! The Song is You. I can’t believe it’s been more than twenty years since it was first published.