Frank Sinatra. Love or hate his music, his art, this man's name is synonymous with all that is the male jazz vocal and American Songbook world. His rich, expressive voice is unmatched as he is, like all the best, a singular stylist. No one ever got as close to the stardom he achieved as the world's crooner. Vic Damone, Dean, Sammy and a host of lesser-known male vocalists of the era were definitely on the airwaves, but Sinatra was truly the "Chairman of the Board".
Now, specifically, I've been listening to his first amazing live album to reach the market, Live at the Sands. Now, it must be said that this album also represents two other extraordinary talents; the legendary Count Basie and his Orchestra conducted by a young Quincy Jones in 1966. Also, worth noting, is that is was recorded in a prime era of the Las Vegas show band scene. It is absolutely glowing with hard swinging music and lovely ballads fueled by the cocktails and bright lights of America's adult playground. It is a recording that is so of it's time that it conjures up a clearly defined vision of what the venue must of looked like, smelled like, tasted and sounded like on the very night of this recording. It is a beautifully captured post card of the era. I'd love to see a photo of the audience.
Frank is funny and as cool as an on-stage persona can be. The banter is of the era and straight out of Frank's east coast jive, which, to me, is as delightful as listening to an Irishman tell a tale. He is also right in the moment of every song, or so it seems. It's honest and heartfelt. His voice is as strong as it ever was right out of the gate. Any front man looking to understand what it means to be in command of an audience and fully involved in the musical offering, which is what a proper concert honestly is, should listen to Mr. Sinatra handle the repertoire and the banter on this recording. He commands the vibe of the room with genuine skill, thoughtful delivery and so little hype that I find it to be a master class in presentation. You can simply here the confidence and, I dare say, the humility simultaneously firing on all cylinders. He is in service of the music AND the audience.
Sinatra also mentions the songwriters, the composers, of many of the songs he performs. This nod to those who have contributed to his career successes, which is exactly what those behind the scenes putting pen to paper do, is a genuine display of class. Additionally, he recognizes Mr. Basie and Mr. Jones later in the program, which the producers left on the recording and that says a lot about how Frank respected the musicians he worked with.
He mentions that he had just turned 50 around the time of the concert and, as I understand it, he was soon to find himself coming to grips with the fact that his brand of music was falling out of fashion with the younger audiences. He was facing stiff competition from the Beatles, after all. That noted, he was nowhere near stepping off the stage. Quite the contrary; on this recording he is, in my opinion, in top form. Of course, he still carried the torch for a couple more decades.
If you're at all curious about the magic of Frank Sinatra, this live recording is an extraordinary example of his prowess, his level of commitment to the music, to performing, to sharing with the world more his exceptional talent and that of the best of the best with whom he surrounded himself.