Say the name Bing Crosby and most people immediately register “White Christmas.” Scratch a little deeper beneath the surface and you might come up with select tunes from the 1956 film High Society (notably “Now You Has Jazz” with Louis Armstrong, “True Love” with Grace Kelly, or “Well Did You Evah” with Frank Sinatra). Others might recall songs from the various Road pictures shot during the 1940s with Bob Hope (“Put It There, Pal,” “Road to Morocco,” “Moonlight Becomes You”). Hardcore Bingophiles are well acquainted with his jazzbo years during the late 20s with Paul Whiteman and the Rhythm Boys. But even the most ardent Bing fans are probably not aware of this treasure trove of heavily-jazz- influenced CBS Radio Recordings from 1954-56, which Crosby began cutting just after his lengthy exclusive contract with Decca ended.
Backed by an empathetic quartet led by longtime accompanist Buddy Cole on piano and organ and featuring the swinging contributions of guitarist Vince Terri, bassist Don Whitaker, and drummer Nick Fatool, Bing is in exceptionally good voice on these recordings, showcasing his mellow baritone, relaxed, behind-the-beat phrasing and casual, unforced delivery on appealing chestnuts like Fats Waller’s “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” along with countless hip treatments of tunes from the Great American Songbook, from George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” “But Not For Me,” “S’Wonderful,” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” to Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “You Took Advantage of Me,” “This Can’t Be Love,” and “The Lady Is A Tramp” to Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “It’s All Right With Me.” Most of the tunes come in well under three minutes, and each is an unqualified gem.
The audio quality is superb throughout the 160 tracks that make up this 7-CD set, and Crosby radiates personality and a nonchalant sense of swing on each and every one. Check his jaunty, uptempo rendition of “Ol’ Man River,” his buoyant take on “We’re In The Money” and “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me,” his dreamy rendition of Ray Noble’s “Love Is The Sweetest Thing,” his dramatic readings of “Unchained Melody,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “My Own True Love” (the theme song from Gone With The Wind), his exquisite sentiment in “Try A Little Tenderness,” and his ebullient bounce on a swinging version of Harold Arlen’s “As Long As I Live.” And the joyful collection of Dixieland numbers that he dives headlong into on Disc 6 (augmented by a four-piece horn section) are right in his comfort zone.
There are a few novelties here, like a cover of Perez Prado’s mambo hit from 1955, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” along with versions of “In A Little Spanish Town,” “Arrivederci Roma,” and “(You Gotta Have) Heart” from the Broadway musical Damn Yankees. But in the main, swing is the thing with Bing on this brilliant boxed set.