The Jazz.com Blog
August 25, 2008 · 2 comments
We have fantasy football and fantasy baseball . . . why not fantasy jazz? This blog article, recently featured on our "best jazz links of the week" page, has initiated a discussion of possible fantasy jazz bands. And the selections range from the exciting to bizarre. (One of the proposed bands has John Coltrane and Louis Armstrong in the same front line; another one has Coltrane and Chris Botti. Take your pick.)
But jazz.com’s Walter Kolosky trumps them all. His fantasy bands come complete with fantasy CDs, and Walter even offers up a review. Only the review is not fantasy . . . you can read it below. T.G.
Here is the next in my series of fantasy reviews. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept under which I am operating please visit the introductory section of my John Coltrane fantasy fusion album review. You may read it here.
This time out I review a fantasy collaboration between several of the greatest talents the jazz and music world have ever known. I hope you enjoy it.
Sinatra Sings Weather Report (RCA 121215)
From the LP liner notes:
“Sinatra and producer Quincy Jones were discussing the state of music one day last year and discovered they both enjoyed the music of jazz-rock pioneers Weather Report. 'Q and I laughed about it. We wondered what damage these cats could have caused back in the heyday of the big bands,' Sinatra joked. He continued, 'You know, I’m not dead from the neck up. I have followed the trends in popular music and in jazz. I liked the Beatles and I dug that stuff Zawinul and those guys were doing with Miles.'
"Jones added, 'Frank and I decided to get some lyricists to put words to some of our favorite Weather Report tunes and record them. We thought Frank’s voice would blend real well with the sound this band generates. We got Paul Anka and Paul Williams, and we were also blessed when the great Sammy Cahn agreed to write some words for us as well.'”
Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter were Sinatra fans, but they were not so sure this was a good idea. According to those in the know, it took some time for Jones to convince them that this could be a marvelous record. Weather Report’s mercurial bassist, Jaco Pastorius, was on the case the moment the opportunity arrived. He was apparently so excited that he demanded to do a duet with Sinatra! (He eventually settled for a little background singing.) But over several months and a few issues with its record company Columbia, the band agreed to do the album with Frank and Quincy for RCA.
Sinatra and Jones chose six Weather Report tunes and brought them to Zawinul and asked the band to perform them per Quincy’s special arrangements. Jones’s scores were rather generous, calling for Weather Report to take long and sometimes risky musical excursions. The shortest piece on the record is nearly 7 minutes.
Zawinul’s “In a Silent Way” opens the record. This interpretation is shorter than the original that appeared on Miles Davis’s album of the same name. But is still ten minutes in length. Williams’s lyrics, “In a silent way… you captured me away” are sung with a low-register three-bourbon sadness that only Sinatra could muster. Perhaps Sinatra and Jones knew that Weather Report’s sound could produce, if in a totally modern way, the same flow that the best big bands provided for Sinatra and all of the great big band singers. Jones arrangement of this piece, and on others on the record, found a wonderful way to make everything mesh.
Frank takes his famous liberties with Cahn’s lyrics for the grooving “Mr. Gone.” “Mr. Gone. You done be gone for good now…..dooby-dooby gone.” In addition to helping Zawinul and his synthesier with the growling base line, Pastorius adds his voice to a few “dooby-doos.” Drummer Alphonse Mouzon keeps a steady beat that Sinatra playfully pounces on. Joe and Wayne also add sonorous phrases and short bursts that they sometimes play in tandem.
Sinatra handles “A Remark You Made” with astonishing skill. This clearly is a ballad made for his voice. Anka wrote the words. “A remark you made turned me into your slave.” The harmonies brought forth from the band are wonderful and Sinatra’s gifts as a crooner never are more evident than on this cut. He easily slides over, under and through the wall of sound produced by Zawinul’s synthesizer. When beckoned by Shorter’s beautiful siren calls, Sinatra relaxingly let’s loose with a few polysyllabic phrases for some very enjoyable call-and-response.
Sinatra, Jones and Weather Report have pulled off a big surprise. Zawinul and Shorter’s initial concerns were not totally unfounded. A wrong step here or there could have easily produced a disaster. Instead, this gamble has paid off in a big way. Ol’ Blue Eyes has conquered the jazz-rock frontier with not a little help from one of its major bands.
Sinatra Sings Weather Report - A Remark You Made; Mr. Gone; In a Silent Way; Mysterious Traveler; Cannon Ball
Personnel - Frank Sinatra (vocals), Josef Zawinul (keyboards and synthesizers), Wayne Shorter (saxophone), Jaco Pastorious (electric and acoustic bass), Alphonse Mouzon (drums)
This blog entry posted by Walter Kolosky.