THE DOZENS: FRANK SINATRA FOR JAZZ LOVERS by Marc Myers



           Frank Sinatra
, artwork by Suzanne Cerny

Editor’s Note: This month jazz.com offers up Dozens on many of the leading vocalists in the history of jazz, including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and (the subject of this installment) Frank Sinatra. Marc Myers, who generally can be found presiding over his always insightful JazzWax blog, makes a cameo appearance on jazz.com, and selects 12 Sinatra tracks for jazz lovers. T.G.





Throughout his career, Frank Sinatra’s singing was deeply influenced by the jazz musicians he knew and heard. And jazz musicians from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis openly appreciated Sinatra’s hip vocal phrasing, honest intonation and swinging confidence.

While it’s virtually impossible to select a definitive dozen Sinatra tracks with a distinct jazz feel, these twelve should do the trick.




Tommy Dorsey (featuring Frank Sinatra): How Do You Do Without Me

Track

How Do You Do Without Me

Group

Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra (featuring Frank Sinatra)

CD

Frank Sinatra & Tommy Dorsey: All Time Greatest Hits Vol. 3 (RCA)

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Musicians:

Tommy Dorsey (trombone), Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and a big band including Ziggy Elman (trumpet), Joe Bushkin (piano) and Buddy Rich (drums)

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Composed by Joe Bushkin and John De Vries

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Recorded: New York, September 18, 1941

Albumcovertdorseyfsinatra3

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Virtually all of Sinatra’s 83 studio sides recoded with Tommy Dorsey for RCA from February 1940 to June 1942 are towering masterpieces. His poured-steel renditions of songs like “East of the Sun,” “Everything Happens to Me” and “Violets for Your Furs” remain the versions to beat. “How Do You Do Without Me” is a nearly forgotten tune from his Fox Trot period and features a swingy Sinatra vocal and clock-time drum and cymbal work by Buddy Rich.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye

Track

We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye

Group

Frank Sinatra with the Johnny Guarneri Trio

CD

The Best of the Columbia Years (1943-1952): The Complete Recordings (Sony)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals), Johnny Guarnieri (celeste), Herman 'Trigger' Alpert (bass), Tony Mottola (guitar).

Composed by Harry Woods

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Recorded: October 24, 1947

Albumcoverfsinatrabcy4352

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

When Sinatra left Dorsey in mid-1942, he was seeking solo stardom. After signing with Columbia Records in 1943, he remained with the label for nearly 10 years, maintaining a grueling recording schedule. This image-rich sweetheart ballad about lovers unable to part is taken at a pulse’s pace. It’s a delightful example of Sinatra’s vocal range and quiet control. Listen as he moves cat-like behind and ahead of the beat. And dig the trio’s Shearing tag at the end. For fun, compare it to the end of George Shearing’s “So Rare” of February 1947.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: Nevertheless (I'm in Love with You)

Track

Nevertheless (I'm in Love With You)

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

The Best of the Columbia Years (1943-1952): The Complete Recordings (Sony)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

with an orchestra featuring Billy Butterfield on trumpet

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Arranged by George Siravo and conducted by Axel Stordahl

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Recorded: October 9, 1950

Albumcoverfsinatrabcy4352

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Most of Sinatra’s sides for Columbia are notable for their dramatic string arrangements and double-thick romantic mood. On this track, Sinatra’s voice is relaxed and at its peak during this period. Listen as he takes vocal risks that resolve beautifully. Billy Butterfield plays trumpet behind Sinatra, making this side an early example of the singer-and-wandering-horn formula that would become so successful in the 1950s. Listen to the 'outro' where Butterfield and Sinatra seem to complete each other’s musical thoughts.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: From Here to Eternity

Track

From Here to Eternity

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

Frank Sinatra: The Capitol Years (Capitol)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle

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Recorded: May 2, 1953

Albumcoverfranksinatra-thecapitolyears

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Sinatra’s Capitol Records era began in April 1953 and lasted until March 1962. When he joined Capitol, Sinatra was considered a vocal liability and an emotional mess. But with the help of arrangers such as Nelson Riddle, Sinatra’s confidence was restored as he began to trust his instincts and call the shots. “From Here to Eternity” is Sinatra’s first session with Riddle and his strongest ballad from the period. Inspired by the film for which he won an Oscar—but not written for it—the song marked Sinatra’s “comeback” and peaked at #15 on the pop charts.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan

Track

I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

A Swingin' Affair! (Capitol)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

with orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle

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Composed by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz

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Recorded: November 20, 1956

Albumcoverfsinatraaswinginaffair

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

A Swingin’ Affair! was Sinatra third 12-inch LP for Capitol and possibly his finest for the label. Nelson Riddle’s tricked-out arrangement of this Schwartz-Dietz standard set the writing standard for the entire decade, and Sinatra’s voice is comfortable and in control. During these years, Sinatra’s approach on standards had a big influence on Miles Davis, who also liked taking mainstream tunes and transforming them. If you think Riddle’s chart sounds simple, try counting off the intro’s beats. Tough, huh? Now you know why only the best session musicians were brought in to read the charts on these Capitol dates.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: Heart of Mine

Track

Heart of Mine

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

Sinatra in Hollywood: 1940-1964 (Reprise/Warner Bros.)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and orchestra arranged and conducted by Jerry Fielding

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Composed by Jerry Fielding and Ned Washington

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Recorded: September 18, 1961

Albumcoversinatrainhollywoodjpg

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

This touching ballad is considered by many to be the Sinatra song that never was. Absent from even the most comprehensive discographies, the tune was recorded by Sinatra only once—for the 1962 Otto Preminger film, Advise and Consent. Sinatra deep-sixed the recording after the tune was used in the controversial movie as mood music for a scene in a gay bar. What makes this ballad so endearing is its haunting melody and Sinatra’s wide-open vulnerability, which can be compared only to a Billie Holiday vocal.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: How Little it Matters (How Little We Know)

Track

How Little It Matters (How Little We Know)

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

Sinatra’s Sinatra (Warner Bros)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle

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Composed by Carolyn Leigh and Philip Springer

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Recorded: April 30, 1963

Albumcoversinatrassinatra

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

First recorded by Sinatra in 1956 for Capitol, this Carolyn Leigh-Phillip Springer tune was brought back for a retooling on this album of Sinatra favorites. The purpose of this album was to bring the hits he made for Capitol onto his new Reprise label. The brassy update is pure Kennedy Administration, with Riddle shaking together an optimistic cocktail of trombones, muted trumpets and strings. Dig Riddle’s opening—with the bass clarinet playing the downbeat, followed by pizzicato strings and muted trumpets on top. Sinatra’s voice here is no longer restrained, and his sass and cool provide a glimpse of the Sinatra to come on future albums.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: Here's to the Losers

Track

Here's to the Losers

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

Softly As I Leave You (Reprise)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and orchestra arranged and conducted by Marty Paich

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Recorded: July 31, 1963

Albumcoversinatrasoftly_

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

This is Sinatra at his underdog best, a tribute to those who can’t seem to land right-side up. Like a Coleman Hawkins solo, Sinatra’s singing is wide open. Paich’s arrangement accelerates beautifully and is a tip of the snap-brim to Nelson Riddle—from the call and response intro between reeds and trombones to the crafty use of strings, harp and even bongos. And dig the chime that follows Sinatra’s jabbing lyric: “To the girl who sighs with envy / when she hears that wedding bell.” Ding.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: The Way You Look Tonight

Track

The Way You Look Tonight

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River and Other Academy Award Winners (Reprise)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle

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Composed by Jerome Kern

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Recorded: January 27, 1964

Albumcoverfsaawinners

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

This update of a Fred Astaire number from the 1936 film Swing Time doesn’t glide across the ballroom floor—it struts. Riddle opens the tune with jaunty reeds and sizzling muted trumpets echoing each other’s lines. Sinatra comes in tough and is cocky throughout, but there’s also a subtle tenderness between the lines. After the first run-through, the song’s pace picks up, with trombones punctuating Sinatra’s staccato lyrics— “And that laugh, wrink-le-s your nose/Touch-es my fool-ish hearttt.” The chart’s crescendo occurs on the bridge and features a hip trumpet dragging the final note. Cool touch. Sinatra returns to provide a warm wind-down and finishes remarkably in ballad tempo.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra (with Count Basie): I Believe in You

Track

I Believe in You

Group

Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie Orchestra

CD

It Might As Well Be Swing (Reprise)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and the Count Basie Orchestra

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Arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones. Composed by Frank Loesser

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Recorded: June 9, 1964

Albumcoversinatrabasieswing

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

This may be the best Sinatra swinger on Reprise from the early '60s. Count Basie’s band is in peak form and perfectly suited to this hard-charger from Broadway's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Quincy Jones opens the chart with a rip-roaring fanfare, and the Basie band effortlessly sustains the breakneck pace. Sinatra’s confidence level here is in the red zone as he snarls out the lyrics: “To see the cool, clear, eyes of a seeker of wisdom of truth / Yet there’s that slam, bang, tang reminiscent of gin and vermouth.” Getting ahead at work never sounded so good.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra: Change Partners

Track

Change Partners

Artist

Frank Sinatra (vocals)

CD

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (Reprise)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and orchestra arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman

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Recorded: January 30, 1967

Albumcoversinatrajobim

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Recorded six months after the Strangers In the Night LP, this bossa nova album is Sinatra’s best- produced package since his Capitol years. Gone momentarily is the cocky swagger and bachelor-pad attitude. Every track on this album is sublime, but “Change Partners” is still a cut above. Claus Ogerman’s flutes-on-strings chart is perfectly matched to the odd-man-out lyrics, and the acoustic guitar’s open-chord exhale at the end is a nice touch. Sinatra’s patient balladry here is reminiscent of his romantic Columbia period of the 1940s.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


Frank Sinatra (with the Duke Ellington Orchestra): Follow Me

Track

Follow Me

Group

Frank Sinatra with the Duke Ellington Orchestra

CD

Francis A. & Edward K. (Reprise)

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Musicians:

Frank Sinatra (vocals),

and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, featuring Paul Gonsalves (tenor sax) and Cootie Williams (trumpet)

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Arranged and conducted by Billy May. Composed Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

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Recorded: December 12, 1967

Albumcoversinatraellington

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Lerner & Loewe’s show tune from Camelot opens with Duke Ellington’s piano, followed by the band slinking along in strip time. Sinatra’s voice here is husky and distinctly middle-aged. Billy May wrote the charts, but Ellington’s band reportedly wasn’t big on sight-reading and members weren’t too happy about the date. So May brought in a few session readers, a move that only further diminished the date's energy level. But eventually the band found its groove. The lyrics are perfectly suited to this uneven period in Sinatra's personal life: “Time goes by, or do we? / Close your eyes and you’ll see / As we were, we can be / Weep no more, follow me.” We also get a taste of Paul Gonsalves on tenor sax and Cootie Williams on muted trumpet.

Reviewer: Marc Myers


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