Monday, May 03, 2010

"Now You Has Jazz" by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong

Der Bingle is as cool and clear as glass while Satchmo hisses and pops like a firecracker next to him, and the result is like watching bottled lightning! Although they more famously sang Now You Has Jazz - written by Cole Porter - in the 1956 musical High Society*, this looks to me like a TV appearance they may have made around that same time to promote the film. Seeing it here for the first time, I'm tempted to suggest renaming their skilful duet Now You Has Magic.

The two had worked together as early as 1930, jamming at a joint called the New Cotton Club in Culver City, where they were also known to share a few - joints that is; owing as much to the silk and sandpaper contrast of their voices as to their combined artistry, many of the songs they subsequently recorded together are beloved still, such as 1951's Gone Fishin', which is a particular favourite around the Pop Culture Institute, especially on lazy summer afternoons.

Separately these two titans were merely Havin' Fun but together's when they started Havin' More Fun - all the while helping to tear down the colour barrier while doing it. At a time when blacks and whites seldom interacted socially - or did so warily, at best - the image of two highly popular performers doing so comfortably served as a powerful tonic to a nation which had devoted so much time and effort toward socially engineering just the opposite.

And yet late in life Armstrong reminisced that, as close as he and Crosby had been professionally, he'd never once been invited to Bing's house... Just as well, considering the mishegas that was (allegedly) going on behind those closed doors.

The story of Crosby's meteoric rise to fame - including the beginnings of his friendship with Louis Armstrong - is told in exquisite detail in Gary Giddins' superb biography Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams - The Early Years, 1903-1940.

*Costarring Grace Kelly and Bing's most famous protege, Old Blue Eyes himself...

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