Herb Jeffries, a fine ballad singer with a strong voice, will always be remembered for his early-'40s stint with Duke Ellington's orchestra and for his hit of the period, "Flamingo." Through the decades, Jeffries retained his strong voice (even in 2003 at the age of 92) while being content to sing pretty straight. If I Were King/I Remember the Bing reissues a pair of albums that Jeffries recorded for the tiny Dobre label in 1978 when he was just 67. Accompanied by pianist Lou Levy, bassist Fred Atwood, drummer John Dentz, and (on the first set) guitarist Joe Diorio, Jeffries performs eight songs associated with Nat King Cole and ten in tribute to the recently deceased Bing Crosby. Jeffries does not try to sound like either singer (other than on Crosby's theme, "Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)") and instead just sings in his own style. While the Nat Cole songs were all hits of his, a few of the Bing numbers such as "I'll Wind," "What's New," "Poinciana," and "I Apologize" (the latter is actually a Billy Eckstine hit) are not as closely associated with Crosby, but they all work well in this context. This single CD two-fer gives listeners a strong sampling of Jeffries' singing.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow