Political commentator, Michael Smerconish, a staple on the "talk radio" station for which Mr. Markâ????s is the only musical program, introduced Sid with obvious admiration, and then the lattertall, self-composed, and gray-hairedreflected on his many years with Sounds of Sinatra and his recent radio exchanges with Frank, Jr. He then introduced Musical Director Terry Woodson and "The Frank Sinatra Orchestra."
Put simply, the concert that ensued was at once a blast and a sentimental, moving occasion. Sinatra Jr. reprised many of his fatherâ????s numbers with exquisite sensitivity, taste, and musicianship. The orchestral accompaniment was nothing short of sterling, with the original arrangements of Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Sy Oliver, and other Sinatra Sr. appointees perfectly adapted for Sinatra Jr. and the special ensemble brought together for this gig. In a casino auditorium that had stunningly good acoustics and technology, the sound of the orchestra, consisting of consummate professionals some of whom were part of Sinatra Sr.â????s own groups, was bracing if not exhilarating. One might say that the Chairman of the Board would have wanted it that way, because whatever organization he performed withwhether the Tommy Dorsey band, the Red Norvo Quintet, Count Basie, Antonio Carlos Jobim, or the many studio orchestras on his recordingshe insisted on nothing less than musical perfection.
Sinatra Jr., like his father, is a musicianâ????s musician, and although he exuded a modest and humble presence, it was obvious that he was the force behind the orchestraâ????s performance, having served during one stretch as his fatherâ????s musical director and orchestra conductor. Although Frank Jr. has had to tolerate his share of the pundits' derogatory quips and snipes, he knows better than to try to fill his fatherâ????s unfillable shoes. This Sinatra clearly deserves to be recognized as an outstanding musician in his own right and moreover as a master of his craft. As was all too evident from his singing and his rapport with the orchestra, he has a finely tuned ear, a well-honed flare for interpreting a song, and a superb baritone voice with a wide dynamic range.
For those curious about the top-of-the line personnel comprising the orchestra, a quick review of some of the names and a few brief resumés might be in order here. Conductor Terry Woodson is Sinatra Jr.'s regular conductor, has produced recordings for Sinatra senior (among other stars), and is a studio trombonist. Principal trumpet Walt Johnson has worked with Frank Sinatra Sr., Louie Bellson, Johnny Mathis, Lionel Hampton, Mel Torme, Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, and is one of the premier lead players on the Los Angeles studio scene. Principal saxophonist Mike Smith has performed and recorded with over a hundred jazz greats, including Nat Adderley, Clark Terry, Art Farmer, Tony Bennett, Jimmy Heath, Natalie Cole, Linda Ronstadt, Diane Schuur, Gloria Morgan, Kurt Elling, Nancy Wilson, Harry Connick, and Frank Sinatra Sr. Guitarist Ron Anthony spent nine years with the senior Sinatraâ????s orchestra and also with pianist George Shearing. Bassist Paul Rostock has toured with Bobby Vinton, Maynard Ferguson and Frank Sinatra Jr. in addition to performing with jazz greats Phil Woods, Ellis Marsalis, Bob Dorough, John Coates Jr., Bill Watrous, Urbie Green, David "Fathead" Newman, Stanley Turrentine, Eddie Severn, David Leonhardt and The Absolut Trio. Rostock's trumpet has moreover seen stellar service in some of the most popular big bands from the Swing Era, including the high-profile ensembles of Gene Krupa (led by Mike Berkowitz), Les Elgart, and Harry James. Several of the local violinists are members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In other words, one had only to see the individual musicians' credentials which read like a Hall of Fame of jazz, classical, and popular musicto understand the basis for the superb ensemble power supporting Sinatra Jr. on this gala occasion.
The show began with a well-crafted orchestral overture that included a medley of Sinatra Sr.-associated tunes such as "The Most Wonderful Girl in the World," "I Get a Kick out of You," "Young at Heart," "Iâ????ve Got You Under My Skin," "Strangers in the Night," and "New York, New York." Junior then took the stage, launching into "Look Down that Lonesome Road" with a touch of that late-night, laid-back but assertive bluesy swing that his father loved and practically owned. Throughout, rather than attempting to "imitate" his father, Frank Jr. sang in a straight-ahead manner that tastefully incorporated his fatherâ????s rhythmic inflections and unique ability to "swing." Sinatra Sr. and Jr. have approximately the same vocal range, so at times Old Blue Eyes was uncannily evoked, but always it was his son whose presence predominated. To the delight of the audience, Sinatra Jr. reprised Great American Songbook standards like "I Wish I Were in Love Again," "Lazy River," Sâ????Wonderful," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and one song never recorded by his father, Alan Bergman's "That Face" (also the title of Frank Sinatra Jr.'s recent CD).
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