Celebrating Bob Crosby’s Birthday and His Big Band with a Lesser Known Number

In honor of Bob Crosby‘s birthday, here’s a side that’s probably not as familiar as “South Rampart Street Parade,” “Big Noise from Winnetka” or other tunes usually associated with his band:

At a time when most big bands were taking their cues from Harlem, Bob Crosby and His Orchestra found inspiration by looking a little further back to Chicago and New Orleans. The band was fairly popular during the swing era despite (or maybe because of) their allegiances to earlier repertoire and styles, yet this side is an intriguing hybrid. The tune was written by Jimmy McHugh for a New York revue and primarily associated with Duke Ellington. The arrangement includes riff choruses, which were more prevalent in charts by Crosby’s more “modern” contemporaries, as well as a lowdown, killer-diller feel vaguely reminiscent of Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Goodman’s famous recording had been released a little over a year earlier. The Crosby band might have been trying to cash in on the continued success of similar numbers.

Whatever influences were at work, Crosby’s ensemble keeps its identity with deliciously reedy textures, a powerful but warm trumpet section and the outstanding rhythm team of bassist/arranger Bob Haggart and drummer Ray Bauduc laying down a beat that’s nothing like Goodman, Basie or any of their contemporaries. Solos from Warren Smith’s blistering trombone and Bob Zurke’s labyrinthine piano, as well as a typically liquid reflection from clarinetist Irving Fazola and criminally underrated tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller wailing away also make this an utterly Crosbyesque performance. Perhaps most importantly, it swings like crazy!

There’s too much here for me to capture in any cogent fashion.  Enjoy the music.


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2 thoughts on “Celebrating Bob Crosby’s Birthday and His Big Band with a Lesser Known Number

  1. andrewhomzy says:

    Labyrinthine = the perfect word to describe Zurke’s style. Thanks for directing me to this gem.

    Now, if I could only find Bob Crosby’s first recording – also a double-sider:

    Bob Crosby (vcl) acc by the Basin Street Boys , : unknown tp, tb, cl, as, bar, vln, p, accor, g, b and d
    New York, August 29, 1934
    38474-A It’s my night to howl (pt 1) De 112
    38475-A It’s my night to howl (pt 2)

    • Andrew J. Sammut says:

      Thanks for reading, Andrew! I don’t know that side, and I’ll admit that I’m a little less than familiar with Bob Crosby’s vocals. I’ve enjoyed what I have heard though.

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