Michael Feinstein's Fresh Take On Classic Sinatra


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Ol' Blue eyes did it his way -- and so now has Michael Feinstein.
Feinstein takes Ol' Blue Eyes' 1940s hits and gives them 1950s Nelson Riddle-style arrangements.

When he began kicking around ideas recently for a new album, the singer and recording artist who carries a torch for the Great American Songbook initially dismissed a suggestion that he do a Frank Sinatra tribute. There were too many on the market already, he thought, and most simply copied legendary performances, sometimes note for note. Why bother?

But then Feinstein, who is also a music historian and curator, came up with a novel idea: Why not make an album of classic pop standards that Sinatra never got around to recording during his golden years in the 1950s at Capitol Records on Hollywood and Vine?

It would be as if the world had discovered a long-lost album. As Feinstein imagined it, the songs would be performed in Sinatra's swaggering style at Studio A -- where he made history with Nelson Riddle, Billy May and other famous arrangers -- and they'd be recorded the old-fashioned way, in stereophonic sound with a live studio band. Just like Frank did.

“I was intrigued by the idea of taking a song Sinatra sang in the 1940s and doing an arrangement as if he had sung it a decade later, with Nelson Riddle at the podium," said Feinstein, describing the origins of The Sinatra Project, due out Tuesday. “The key was to find the right material and then make it sound like one of those classic records."

The result is an album that some are calling one of the finest in Feinstein's career. The Los Angeles-based singer, working with producer-arranger Bill Elliott, recorded 11 tracks in two days, expanding the concept to include standards Sinatra sang in the 1950s with the addition of complete (and rarely heard) lyrics. He also included “How Long Will It Last," a duet with the world- and lounge-music group Pink Martini, and a gem -- “The Same Hello, the Same Goodbye" with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and music by John Williams -- which was written for Sinatra but never recorded.

Old-school cool

For a new record, this is as close to being at a Sinatra date as you'll get. And it's not just because of Michael's performance, but the way it was recorded. It's a throwback to the way records used to be made, with live music in the studio.
Charles GranataSessions With Sinatra Author the definitive book on his recordings.

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