Bing & Satchmo

Louis Armstrong / Bing Crosby

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Bing & Satchmo Review

by John Bush

Could anything but warmth and playfulness result when the two most seminal, expressive voices of the 20th century found the room to stretch out on a full LP together? Previously responsible for one of pop history's finest duets ("Gone Fishin'"), Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong teamed up in 1960 to record an LP for MGM. As if Brother Satch and Brother Cros weren't enough in the way of firepower, Johnny Mercer himself signed on (contributing two new songs plus a bounty of added lyrics), while for the arranging and conducting chairs, the equally explosive Billy May was retained. From the opener, there are plenty of nods to a place both of them held dear: New Orleans. There's not only "Muskrat Ramble" and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" and "At the Jazz Band Ball," there was also a new song ripe for the scatting, "Let's Sing Like a Dixieland Band," written by a young Alan Bergman expressly for the LP. New Orleans jazz was not only Armstrong's spiritual home, but it was also the venue for both singers' easiest and most playful lyricizing, replete with a raft of off-the-cuff lines (or seemingly off-the-cuff lines) and the easy give-and-take that came naturally to them, nearly (but never) stepping over each other's lines. Granted, Bing & Satchmo isn't quite as laid-back a date as it should have been; there's a peppy mixed vocal chorus to greet the train in the opening "Muskrat Ramble," and it reappears throughout the LP. But in the hands of May, Mercer, Crosby, and Armstrong, there is a parade of brilliant moments.

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