The SRJO’s Sinatra Night

Over the weekend, the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra played a concert devoted to music associated with Frank Sinatra. The SRJO is one of the world’s finest big bands dedicated to preserving the spirit and substance of the jazz tradition. Drummer Clarence Acox and saxophonist Michael Brockman co-lead the orchestra and have developed admirable projects devoted to works of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Jimmy Heath, among other major figures.

The Sinatra program at The Seasons in Yakima, east of Seattle, might have been subtitled, “And his great arrangers.” The charts were by Nelson Riddle, of course, and by Benny Carter, Thad Jones, Quincy Jones, Neal Hefti, Billy May and the drastically underappreciated Billy Byers. The concert opened with baritone saxophonist Bill Ramsey (pictured anchoring the saxophone section), a veteran of the Ellington and Count Basie bands, soloing on Byers’ arrangement of “All of Me.” It progressed through nearly two hours of Sinatra’s best-known numbers, several of them featuring 22-year-old Danny Quintero, a singer with good time, intonation and phrasing who interprets, rather than imitates Sinatra. There were impressive solos by pianist Randy Halberstadt, trumpeters Mike Van Bebber and Syd Potter, trombonist Dan Marcus and tenor saxophonists Steve Tressler and Tobi Stone.

There is no video of the Saturday night concert. Regrettably, there is little but fragments of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra on the web, but the Rifftides staff found a complete performance from an earlier concert. The spoken introduction is by Clarence Acox, the trumpet solo by Jay Thomas.

For more about the SRJO, go here.

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  1. Clarence Acox says

    We love playing those arrangements. Sinatra only used the best!, as you well know.

  2. Jim Brown says

    Roughly ten years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of a front row seat in a neighborhood club (Fitzgerald’s) with Kurt Elling singing some of the great Riddle Sinatra charts in front of Chicago’s Jazz Members Big Band. A friend and tenor saxophonist from Minneapolis told me that Kurt did a lot of big band singing there during his seminary days before moving to Chicago. The Members band, mostly first call players on the Chicago scene at the time, provided what felt like a big cushion that he could lay back into, and both he and the band sounded absolutely great. Ever since, I’ve always hoped that Kurt would do something like that commercially.

  3. Lee Schell says

    A few years ago in ‘Vegas’ my wife, Karen and I ran into a singer working the show room at the Rio, about two blocks off the strip. Steve Lippia was given the use of a number of Sinatra charts by the Sinatra Estate and performed the numbers with a 21-piece big band put together by Vincent Falcone Jr. Steve blew the doors off of that place and audiences started lining up hours before performances.

    It is my opinion that no Sinatra remembrance is complete without Steve Lippia. Close your eyes and Frank lives! Steve doesn’t try to sound like Frank–it’s his natural voice and phrasing. Lippia is wonderful and a really nice guy. He performs around the country with student and professional symphonic orchestras. He performed with a professional pick-up band at a recent Los Angeles Jazz Institute Sinatra Memorial presentation. He brought the house to its feet in a standing ovation rarely seen among these seasoned jazz aficionados. Anyone thinking about another Sinatra tribute should seriously consider contacting Steve Lippia.

    • Clarence Acox says

      Lee, SRJO played with Steve Lippia a couple of years ago. It was a Sinatra retrospective performed at the the Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland WA. We had a great time!!!! I have his CD. He’s a great talent, no doubt.