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ON THE RECORD: BING CROSBY AND MORE…

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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