Mark Stryker of The Detroit Free Press sent the following comment about the current DVD in Doug’s Picks:
In honor of your DVD – Sinatra and Peggy Lee. “Ooh.”
Among all the other good things in this clip: Sinatra’s chops. How about that effortless low F at 1:54.
Mark Stryker says
I know. It’s an amazing clip. So loose, relaxed, swinging and seductive – two complete masters of time. I love the moment right after that low F. Sinatra has sung “Just imagine someone waiting at the cottage door” and Lee responds with a sexy “hmm” as if she’s really considering the image, and then she waits forever before coming in with her phrase.
Larry Kart says
Fine as the clip is, I’m struck by the contrast between Sinatra’s somewhat (for want of a better term) “segmented” time feel and Lee’s uncanny rhythmic flow. She swings more subtly than most jazz instrumentalists. About Sinatra, his time feel was great on ballads, and on pieces that moved a bit, Nelson Riddle knew just how to write so as to disguise/alleviate Sinatra’s arguable rhythmic squareness. Next to Lee, though…
Marc Myers says
that low F is indeed something. also fascinating is the apparent mistake that peggy lee makes at the end of the song. (actually, peggy seems a bit stiff throughout, thrown perhaps by sinatra’ swinging ad-libbing). at the end, rather than singing “won’t you tell me how,” the song’s original lyrics, she sings, “won’t you show me how.” momentarily embarrassed at the end, she tries to cover up the goof by saying to sinatra, “you show me and I’ll tell you, all right?.”
equally fascinating is sinatra’s split second of surprise, which you only find with close inspection in his eyes, since the master showman never misses a musical beat following the flub. they don’t make talent like they used to! of course, it’s impossible to know whether frank and peg agreed early on to change the lyric at the end to “show” and sinatra forgot—or he switched back on purpose. peggy certainly looks surprised.
either way, flaws are fun. great find!
Mark Stryker says
I hear what you’re saying Larry, though in this particular clip Sinatra does not sound square to me at all, even if Lee outswings him. Still, to your observation about Riddle’s arrangements showcasing his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses, there is some truth there. Sinatra sounds best when he is slightly hipper than his accompaniment rather than the other way around. That’s why when it comes to “rhythm” numbers, I have long preferred his own swinging standards records (“Songs for Swinging Lovers,” “Swinging Affair,” “Ring-a-Ding-Ding,” etc.) to the celebrated studio and live LPs with Basie — though this is not just an issue of the arrangements, of course, but the time of the band/orchestra behind him.
Slightly off-topic and just ’cause I have the floor: My favorite ballad record is “Close To You” for the conversational intimacy of the setting with the Hollywood String Quartet, the liquid viola quality of Sinatra’s voice (at its absolute peak of control and expression) and the fresh, beautifully constructed songs “Couldn’t Sleep a Wink,” “Blame it on my Youth,” “P.S. I love You,” “With Every Breath I Take,” etc.)
I’m a sucker for “In Wee Small Hours” too, preferring the melancholy mood to the suicidal despair of “Only the Lonely.”
Julius LaRosa says
That low “F”? When he was “paying attention”…his placement was always impeccable! Because of his attention to the lyric, his voice was never afforded the praise it deserved. Though they called him “The Voice”, it was his phrasing that set him apart.
This was early in his…renaissance, before he became bigger than his material. There’s a certain respect which hadn’t yet been usurped by his…sufferable confidence!
As for that low “F”, I’m pretty sure he once reached for an “E”! If I’m not mistaken it was in “When Your Lover Has Gone.”
Larry Kart says
Mark: I plead an imprecise use of words and should have stuck with “segmented.” By “squareness” I meant a relative lack of rhythmic flow from note to note compared to Lee, not that Sinatra was “square” in the sense of “not hip.” BTW, I think that Sinatra’s greatest rhythmic triumphs (perhaps his greatest interpretive triumphs, period) were based on his control, and imaginative use of, timbre — my favorite example being “Willow Weep For Me” from “Only The Lonely.” The way he leans into/shades the vowel sounds there, it’s as though he’s uncovered another, deeper song beneath the already lovely song that Ann Ronnell wrote.
BTW, if that’s the real Julius LaRosa who posted, you sang beautifully on that clip from the Nat Cole show.
Jon Foley says
I can’t be the only one to have noticed that, at 1:12, Sinatra tries to do the same extended final two bars (of the first chorus) that they do together at 2:20 (at the end of the second chorus): the, “won’t (pause) you (pause) tell (pause) me (pause) how?” He starts it, realizes that he’s doing it but the rhythm section isn’t, the meter is lost for a moment, and he rushes the words to catch up and just barely makes the beginning of the second chorus. He covers it pretty well, though.
And I agree with Larry Kart; Lee swings effortlessly in contrast to Sinatra. She has that “jazzy,” behind the beat phrasing with the subtle Billie Holiday influence.
bill Kirchner says
Interesting comments all. I’m reminded of Gene Lees’ quote of Nat King Cole: “The band swings Frank; I swing the band.”
Re Mark Stryker’s mention of Sinatra’s “Ring-a-Ding-Ding” album, I’ve half-facetiously come to call that album “the Sinatra bebop album”. Not because he sings “Donna Lee,” but because of Johnny Mandel’s arrangements, which subtly incorporated bebop rhythms in a way that Riddle, May, et al. (all, like Sinatra, veterans of the Swing Era) never did. Mandel, though just a few years younger, came from a different orientation. As a result, this album is unlike anything else in the Sinatra discography.
Also, on that album, Mandel used as many of the L.A. beboppers as he was allowed: Joe Maini, Bud Shank, Don Fagerquist, Frank Rosolino, etc. (He tried to get Mel Lewis on drums, but Sinatra wanted his regular drummer.) It’s a different sound than, say, the famous Harry “Sweets” Edison obbligatos on the Sinatra/Riddle albums.