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It Might As Well Be Swing, Again: Complete “Sinatra-Basie” Coming Soon From Concord

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When Frank Sinatra launched Reprise Records in 1961 with Ring-a-Ding Ding!, the greats of the jazz world came to the future Chairman of the Board.  Johnny Mandel arranged that volcanic first offering, and Sinatra’s next concept albums teamed the singer’s singer with a top flight of talents, past and present: Billy May, Sy Oliver, Don Costa, Gordon Jenkins, Robert Farnon and a trumpeter, arranger and composer named Neal Hefti.  That last-named gent would figure prominently in a 1963 collaboration with one of the undisputed legends of the field.  That was when Sinatra teamed with William “Count” Basie for the first of two historic collaborations with the elder statesman of jazz.  Sinatra-Basie was followed the very next year with the punningly-titled It Might As Well Be Swing, and both albums show two musicians at the top of their games, playing to each other’s strengths with a breezy compatibility.  Sinatra would embark on later pairings on Reprise with Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim and even the poet Rod McKuen.  The Basie albums, though, occupy a unique place in the singer’s discography, and led to one of the greatest live albums of all time, Sinatra and Basie’s Live at the Sands in 1966.  The original Sinatra-Basie and It Might As Well Be Swing will soon be collected on a single disc by Frank Sinatra Enterprises and Concord as The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings, due in stores on September 6.

The first of the two albums, Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First, hit the Top 5 on the Billboard charts and introduced an eclectic repertoire.  Neil Hefti, before becoming a household name via television themes like Batman and The Odd Couple, continued his winning streak with Sinatra that had begun with 1962’s stunning Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass.  With Basie on board and tinkling the keys, Sinatra tackled two songs by his favorite lyricist, Sammy Cahn, “Please Be Kind” and “(Love Is) The Tender Trap,” which he had introduced back at Capitol.  Further Capitol reprises (pun intended) came in the form of “Please Be Kind,” and two tracks from 1957’s A Swingin’ Affair, the Gershwins’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields’ immortal “I Won’t Dance.”   He knew that Basie’s presence, combined with Hefti’s smoking arranging and conducting, would give these new versions a unique identity.  Sinatra even paid homage to British entertainer Matt Monro with Leslie Bricusse’s “My Kind of Girl,” a Monro staple.  The resulting album is playful, relaxed and winning.

For the 1964 “sequel,” It Might As Well Be Swing, Quincy Jones ascended to the podium and led a team of arrangers that also included Billy Byers.  The style was a bit different here, with Basie and Sinatra tackling then-current songs and applying an even harder swinging treatment to them.  The album leads off with Jones’ immortal arrangement of Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” perhaps the ultimate interpretation of the song.  For Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s “The Best is Yet to Come,” the performance here likewise became the standard bearer for the song.  From the recent Broadway songbook came Frank Loesser’s “I Believe In You” (from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!” with Sinatra paying lyrical tribute to Louis Armstrong.  Though more associated with Sinatra’s favorite singer, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, Basie, Jones and company more than deliver the goods on “The Good Life” and “I Wanna Be Around.”  Sinatra also sang the first of only two Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs he ever recorded with a vibrant and exuberant take on “Wives and Lovers,” popularized by Jack Jones.  (The other one was a Don Costa-arranged MOR take on “Close to You” in the wake of The Carpenters’ success with the song.)  Another recent hit, “More” (from the film Mondo Cane), is beautifully re-energized.

What bells and whistles are present on the new Concord disc?  Just hit the jump, pally!

Sinatra-Basie: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings offers new liner notes by Bill Dahl.  The journalist and music historian provides background information about the history of Basie’s orchestra, and explores Sinatra’s transition from Capitol to Reprise as well as brief annotations of every song in the collection.  Quincy Jones contributes original anecdotes about the making of the 1964 LP.  All 20 songs from both original albums have been remastered and most likely remixed in the tradition of past releases in this Frank Sinatra Enterprises reissue series.  No bonus tracks have been appended.

The new Sinatra-Basie brings together two of the finest albums recorded by either gentleman in the 1960s and makes the perfect prelude to a hopefully-eventual reissue of the duo’s titanic live summit in ’66 at the Sands.  It follows a similar complete reissue of the Sinatra-Jobim sessions released last year.  Sinatra-Basie: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings can be found everywhere on September 6 from Concord!  It can be pre-ordered at the link below.

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings (Concord, 2011)

  1. Pennies from Heaven
  2. Please Be Kind
  3. (Love Is) The Tender Trap
  4. Looking at the World Thru Rose Colored Glasses
  5. My Kind of Girl
  6. I Only Have Eyes for You
  7. Nice Work If You Can Get It
  8. Learnin’ the Blues
  9. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
  10. I Won’t Dance
  11. Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)
  12. I Wish You Love
  13. I Believe in You
  14. More [Theme from Mondo Cane]
  15. I Can’t Stop Loving You
  16. Hello, Dolly!
  17. I Wanna Be Around
  18. The Best Is Yet To Come
  19. The Good Life
  20. Wives and Lovers

Tracks 1-10 from Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First (Reprise F R9-1008, 1962)
Tracks 11-20 from It Might As Well Be Swing (Reprise F FS-1012, 1964)

Written by Joe Marchese

August 24, 2011 at 14:30

10 Responses

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  1. What bells and whistles are present on the new Concord disc?
    NOTHING, UNFORTUNATELY

    Simon Morley

    August 24, 2011 at 14:47

  2. This may possibly be the definitive version of these recordings for the next 24-36 months, when the even-more-defintive version comes out.

    The marketing line can be used over and over again:

    “You thought you had it. But you didn’t. Now, you can have it.”

    Kevin

    August 24, 2011 at 14:48

  3. I’ll pass, all of these recording can be found on the complete Reprise box.

    anton williams

    August 24, 2011 at 17:50

  4. I’ll be getting this. I’ve really enjoyed the remixes on these Concord reissues. “Ring a Ding Ding” was a revelation.
    I doubt there are all that many people in possesion of the Complete Reprise box as it is out of print and regularly fetches about $200 on eBay. So it doesn’t hurt to have these released again.

    Jason Michael

    August 25, 2011 at 14:48

  5. It’s interesting that the Sinatra Estate is putting these out with new front covers, Because that means in 2-3 years they can issue them again with the original front covers.

    Kevin

    August 25, 2011 at 15:09

    • To be fair, this isn’t a straight release of one album, it’s a combination of two albums. So the new front cover makes sense (though they could just have small pictures of both original covers, like One Way used to do. But those usually look cheesy.). When they released single albums, such as “Ring a Ding Ding” and “September of My Years”, they were issued with the original covers.
      Also, the Sinatra Estate doesn’t have total control of these releases. They are partnered with Warner Music.

      Jason Michael

      August 25, 2011 at 20:31

  6. The Reprise box fetches only $200? I would’ve guessed more. I got mine through the BMG record club for $89. I just listened to all three Sinatra/Basie discs in the car today, great stuff.

    Eric V

    August 25, 2011 at 15:22

    • People ask more on “Buy It Now” listings, but those don’t sell. If you check completed listings, they average at around $200.

      Jason Michael

      August 25, 2011 at 20:24

      • I assume that was the second issue in the typical cardboard box, not the suitcase limited issue. Same music though.

        The problem with the complete reprise box is that it is chronological and completely lost the concept album sequencing, which Sinatra was a master at. The intermingling of singles and album tracks and loss of the building of emotion (or swing) through song sequencing made the big box a big bust. It’s no better than a common download, and had worthless graphics as well.

        Kevin

        August 26, 2011 at 08:33

  7. Yes, the Reprise box doesn’t seem to work as well as some chronological box sets. For instance, if you listen to some of the Miles Davis Prestige “Chronicles” or Columbia “Recordings/ Sessions” sets, you can hear him and his band’s artistic development or refining a concept. But with Sinatra, particularly by this point in his career, you don’t get the same sense of discovery, The music is brilliant, but the context of the original album sequencing is crucial in enhancing it.

    Jason Michael

    August 26, 2011 at 09:11


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