Friday, May 20, 2011


It just happened again, late last night. I was catching up on emails when this one caught my eye: "What is Sinatra's best record?"

I often think what qualifies as best is whatever I'm listening to at the moment, but when it comes to a recording career that started in 1939 and continued into the 90's, well, it is not that simple.

FRANK SINATRA was America's first teen idol, singing with Tommy Dorsey's band, and then later, on his own. By the late 40's, the big bands were over and, as good as young Sinatra was, he had yet to record great records.

IN 1953, after nearly fifteen years of singing, something happened, and it was magical. Joining Capitol Records surrounded the now- struggling singer with the best studio musicians in the world, and an arranger-conductor named NELSON RIDDLE. Sinatra was born again and with him, a confidant sound and smooth style punctuated by an all-new rhythm that, even today, sounds fresh. Sometimes I'd swear there's new versions playing but no, the tracks are the same, yet somehow still surprising. It is almost impossible to sing along.

Throughout the 60's, he'd turn out hit-after hit, including 'My Way,' a song everyone covered, all haunted by the sound of Sinatra. He'd sing a perfect duet with his daughter Nancy ("'Somethin' Stupid") after cutting the most beautiful Bossa Nova songs with Jobim.

There is little doubt that the most creative decade in the musical life of FRANK SINATRA came when Ol' Blue Eyes hired a young classically trained pianist, VINNIE FALCONE, and toured every corner of the the world, sparkling in deserts from the Springs to the Sphinx, in casinos from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo, in Rio: bravo, even dominante the Dominican Republic, their sound preserved on studio recordings like 'Trilogy,' featuring 'Theme from New York, New York,' an anthem that will live forever.

Okay, back to the best record thing. Here it is: 'Indian Summer.' Yup. The Duke Ellington Band made it into the studio to back Sinatra, playing BILLY MAY arrangements, sometimes poorly, once or twice, heavenly. 'Indian Summer' has it all: it is big band, jazz, pop all rolled into one song, and Sinatra sings simple and straight, soft and surreal, the sound of a brilliant actor letting his audience do all the thinking. 'Indian Summer' includes a saxophone solo that catches you off guard, pulling you way out into the deep water and then, gently, floating you back onto shore. MATT WALLACE and others tell me JOHNNY HODGES was a genius and NELSON RIDDLE, in an interview on my radio show, in the 80's, told me that this arrangement is the one he always wished he'd written. Man!

The seasons change, and so do popular tastes but, amazingly, this song, now over forty years old still shines. I'm told you can hear it on YouTube; I know you can buy it on iTunes.

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My profile is considered: "HIGH" 40-ish, 6 foot-ish, slim-ish, trim-ish straight-ish, late-ish, creative-ish... I am an unashamed HETRO* *Heterochromatic(one green eye, one hazel-ish).