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Spokane musicians weigh in on Crosby’s holiday playlist

December 20, 2018

In thinking about our Bing Crosby Holiday Playlist, it occurred to us that Spokane-area musicians might have opinions on the subject. Turns out they do.

Jace Fogelman, vocalist

“While Bing recorded a ton of Christmas songs, the ones that I really enjoy are the ones that he recorded with other big names.” Fogelman wrote in an email. “I really enjoy listening to Bing’s music. It is reminiscent of a time gone by where everyone took things a little slower, and it’s nice to have his music, among others, to listen to to escape the craziness of this fast paced world in which we live today.”

“Jingle Bells” (with the Andrews Sisters): “This song, featured on his legendary album ‘Merry Christmas,’ originally released in ’45 as a 78 and rereleased in ’55 as an LP, has been the longest continually produced album in history behind the original cast recording of ‘Oklahoma!’ I love this version because it swings pretty hard and is reminiscent of Bing’s jazz roots with Al Rinker and later the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.”

“Snow” (from the classic movie “White Christmas”): “Coming from South Louisiana, I always get freaked out when it starts to snow. However, as soon as I listen to this song, I can’t help but get excited for it snow; it temporarily changes my view on snow and makes the white stuff a little more tolerable for me.”

“Little Jack Frost Get Lost” (with Peggy Lee): “Bing Crosby’s voice has always been extremely resonant and warm. Peggy Lee in my opinion was the Queen of Cool, saying herself that at one point she intentionally sang quietly so that the audience would have no other option but to listen. Bing and Lee’s differing voices work extremely well together, making this song (as well as a recording of ‘Snow’) very fun to listen to.

“Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” (with David Bowie, featured in the 1977 TV special “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Old Christmas”): “This was one of Bing’s final recordings; he died a month after recording. As the story goes, Bowie balked at singing ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ saying he hated the song (his mother loved Bing and was insistent that they work together), the writers quickly worked together to create the counterpoint ‘Peace On Earth,’ which Bowie loved. The end result of their taping is pretty magical. Here are two big names from completely different backgrounds working together for the first time; their finished product is really special to listen to. Bing’s voice still carries the richness that it had throughout his career and Bowie’s voice really compliments Crosby’s. The Thin White Duke and Bingo from Bingville really made something beautiful to both watch and listen to with this one.”

Chris Moyer, saxophonist, Spokane Jazz Orchestra

“My late mother Caroline Moyer was a VERY dedicated Bing Crosby fan so Bing’s music was always playing on 33 1/3 LPs on the living room turntable when I was growing up,” Moyer wrote. “ ‘White Christmas’ is the standout, played over and over on our stereo and always featured on his holiday shows on TV until Bing passed in the late 1970s.

“That said, one of my favorites comes from Bing’s Christmas album titled ‘A Time To Be Jolly’ which he recorded with the Jack Halloran singers. Les Brown did the orchestrations. He did this album I think some time in the early 1970s. The song is titled ‘I Sing Noel’ I believe. Nice Christmas message with a hint of social justice mixed in – Bing was an activist when it wasn’t even vogue to be one.”

Other favorites of Moyer’s include: “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Round and Round the Christmas Tree.” “When You Trim Your Christmas Tree this Year.” (About this final one, Moyer added, “Google this one and listen to the words. As a boy, I remember seeing my mother burst into tears listening to this one the Christmas after Bing passed.”)

Brent Edstrom, jazz pianist, composer and arranger

“The Christmas Song:” “One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs because of the rich jazz harmony.”

“White Christmas” “I think this one is pretty much required to be on any list of Crosby Christmas/Winter songs.”

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” “ ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ is an important song for historical reasons and is a poignant reminder of the many sacrifices and time away from family endured by military personnel.

“Winter Wonderland” “I love ‘Winter Wonderland’ because it is based on such a fun and swinging big-band jazz accompaniment.”

“Sleigh Ride” “A classic symphony ‘pops’ arrangement that is corny but fun.

Dan Keberle, trumpeter and director of jazz studies, Whitworth University

“My favorite Bing Crosby song is ‘Jingle Bells,’ ” Keberle wrote. “When I was music director of (the Spokane Jazz Orchestra), I transcribed it so we could play it, and it is a pretty hilarious version. Silly, actually … just fun to listen to!”

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