November 12, 2015

#15: Frank and Peggy: Who could ask for anything more?

Sinatra made a couple of studio recordings of George and Ira Gershwin's "Nice Work If You Can Get It," written in 1937 for a Fred Astaire film with a PG Wodehouse connection.

Much as I love Sinatra's work with Basie, their treatment of "Nice Work" leaves me totally cold. I vastly prefer the 1957 version from the Riddle-arranged A Swingin' Affair:

But this performance, ladies and gentlemen, is the crème de la crème:

(It's hard to look at Peggy and not think of cream.)

This duet dates from 1957 when the fabulous Miss Lee was a guest on Sinatra's ABC TV show. It has been preserved for the ages on Classic Duets, available (used copies only) on both CD and DVD. Either or both are well worth owning, as is any music produced by Frank during this period.

Nelson Riddle worked on the show as the conductor of a large orchestra, so I'm assuming he's responsible for the lovely, very spare arrangement which adds enormously to the intimacy of the performance. They could have used the Swingin' Affair arrangement or something similar, but someone -- a genius -- decided that just piano and a little percussion were all that was needed.

Sure, the singers make some little mistakes here and there, like early on when it seems that Frank expects Peggy to come in but she doesn't, or that charming little flub at the end which Peggy fixes so gracefully with "you show me and I'll tell you." Even Frank's ad-libbed jokes don't break the spell of romance and intimacy, at least not for me. Do not miss the very beginning when Frank scoots over to get cozy with Peggy, who's looking demurely down and away from him. Another highlight: Peggy's "ooh" and Frank's response. It's all pure gold.

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