Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First

I have wanted to write about this record for some time but didn't really know what I wanted to say. It is just a record I really love...

The album is on my mind tonight because an old friend asked me to recommend some music and this was high on the list...

At this point (1962), Frank is well into his second (or third?) act, firing on all cylinders at Reprise, and the Count is keeping the big band flame alive...a middle-aged white superstar and a hepper than hep black man making such joyful music together in 1962 just seems so damn cool...which of course is the best word to describe both these guys...I am sorry that I can't seem to articulate what it is that does it most for me about these versions of these songs...All Music does a decent enough job describing it all -
"The long-awaited first collaboration between two icons, Count Basie and Frank Sinatra, did something unique for the reputations of both. For Basie, the Sinatra connection inaugurated a period in the '60s where his band was more popular and better-known than it ever was, even in the big-band era. For Sinatra, Basie meant liberation, producing perhaps the loosest, rhythmically free singing of his career. Propelled by the irresistible drums of Sonny Payne, Sinatra careens up to and around the tunes, reacting jauntily to the beat and encouraging Payne to swing even harder, which was exactly the way to interact with the Basie rhythm machine — using his exquisite timing flawlessly. Also the members of the Basie band play a more prominent role than usual on a Sinatra record, with soloists like Frank Wess — in some of the finest flute work of his life — and tenors Frank Foster and Eric Dixon getting prominent solo opportunities on several of the tracks. The record was criticized by some as a letdown when it came out, probably because Neal Hefti's charts rarely permit the band to roar, concentrating on use of subtlety and space. Yet the record's restraint has worn very well over the long haul — it doesn't beat you into submission — and it concludes with its best shot, a wonderfully playful treatment of "I Won't Dance.""
- but this record just won't and can't be analyzed...I hope you dig it, too. Good night.

Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First