May 10, 2015

#64: Frank flies the coop with Q and Co

That old guy in the glasses and comfy V-neck sweater sure can swing it:



. . . as can Quincy Jones, Lionel Hampton, George Benson, the rest of the dream team gathered for LA Is My Lady, which Mark Steyn calls "the jazziest Sinatra album since his work with Count Basie in the Sixties." How wonderful that we have video of the recording session. In fact, there's an hour-long film about the making of the album which includes footage of every track.

This is the latest recording on my list (1984, with Frank pushing seventy) and the earliest song, written in 1918 by Turner Layton and Henry Creamer. Mark Steyn featured it as #4 of his Sinatra Century. I already wrote a little about it here and posted a couple of favorite versions by other artists.

Everything Mark writes about the song and the recording is quotable, so I'll just highlight a bit and suggest you go back and read the rest. About the arranger, Frank Foster:

. . . Sinatra found himself in the studio with a bunch of charts by seasoned arrangers who were nevertheless not his "house arrangers" and wrote from a little ways outside the Sinatra style – Frank Foster, Sam Nestico, Torrie Zito... The result are charts with a jazzy looseness, certainly when compared with the polish of Riddle, but that suit the singer's sexagenarian chops. Saxophonist Frank Foster's arrangement of "Mack The Knife" would stay in Sinatra's act right until the end, but his take on "After You've Gone" is just as impressive. "There were no other charts in the whole production that were quite like that," Foster told the musicologist Will Friedwald. "I was just trying to put a heavy personal Frank Foster touch on it. I try not to borrow from anybody else. I just went down into my own arsenal of licks and said, 'I'm just going to make this a bad ************!' I liked the challenge of writing the uptempo arrangement."
And about the Frankified lyrics, writes Mark:
I especially like Foster's rewrite of the tag. Instead of…

After You've Gone
After You've Gone away


…Sinatra sings:

After you've split
After you've flown the coop!


Which is very sly on Foster's part – because it's written in perfect Sinatra argot and surely came from nights on the stand listening to Frank's spoken introduction to "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)": "This simply tells the story of a guy whose chick split. She flew the coop…"

The difference this time is that when Sinatra sings those words they kick into a killer instrumental that really does fly the coop.
 Indeed it does.

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