Invoking the name Frank Sinatra, even in adulation, always presents a challenge, as Ol' Blue Eyes is considered by many aficionados to be the best-ever interpreter of American popular song. Singer Laura Dickinson writes that she "fell in love" with Sinatra as a teen-ager and resolved then to help keep his music and that of the Great American Songbook alive. One for My Baby thus represents Dickinson's admirable attempt to breathe new life into "a select few" of the many songs associated with Sinatra during his long and illustrious career.
Dickinson brings to the task a pitch-perfect voice, clear articulation, impeccable timing, a healthy respect for a lyric and a supporting cast comprised of many of the Los Angeles area's foremost jazz musicians, with arrangements by a who's who of dependable craftsmen from Nelson Riddle and Sammy Nestico to Marty Paich and Gordon Goodwin, among others. So far so good. If there's a caveat, it comes in the higher register, where Dickinson spends a lot of her time, and where her voice is at times more shrill than harmonious, or in other words more akin to Diane Schuur than Sinatra. Aside from that, Dickinson offers a commendable performance, albeit one that is far removed from the master himself, who may never be equaled.
She benefits as a rule from the splendid charts, especially Paich's "Here's to the Losers," James McMillen's "The Tender Trap," Quincy Jones / John Clayton's "The Best Is Yet to Come" and Willie Murillo's "How About You." Goodwin's arrangement of "Learnin' the Blues," on the other hand, is far too rapid and buoyant for the song's inherent melancholy. Nestico strikes a more apposite note on "Indian Summer," as does pianist Alan Steinberger on "You Go to My Head." While the orchestra is present on most tracks (several with strings), guitarist Danny Jacob is the lone accompanist on "I Only Have Eyes for You," as are bassist Neil Stubenhaus on Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" and pianist Vince di Mura on "One for My Baby" (on which Dickinson's high-register weaknesses are underlined).
One for My Baby is a laudable and ambitious enterprise, one that few singers would be bold enough to attempt. So high marks for that, and for the exceptional musicianship involved. As for Dickinson, there's no doubting her purpose or sincerity. For the most part she's a pleasure to hear, even though the incomparable voice of Sinatra in the back of one's head tends to overshadow even her best efforts to reanimate his music.
Come Fly with Me; Learnin’ the Blues; (Love Is) the Tender Trap; Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me; Here’s to the Losers; Indian Summer; You Go to My Head; How About You; The Best Is Yet to Come; I Only Have Eyes for You; My Funny Valentine; I’m Gonna Live Till I Die; All the Way; One for My Baby.
Laura Dickinson: vocals; Chuck Findley: trumpet; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet; Kye Palmer: trumpet; John Fumo: trumpet; Larry Hall: trumpet; Rob Schaer: trumpet; Dan Higgins, Brian Scanlon, Greg Huckins, Tom Luer, John Yoakum, Vince Trombetta Jr., Doug Webb, John Mitchell, Chad Smith: woodwinds; Bob McChesney: trombone; Ira Nepus: trombone; Steve Holtman: trombone; Steve Trapani: trombone; Danny Jacob: guitar; Andrew Synowiec: guitar; Alan Steinberger: piano, keyboards; Neil Stubenhaus: electric bass; Trey Henry: acoustic bass; Ray Brinker: drums; Robert F. Peterson: violin; Ken Yerke: violin; Kevin Connolly: violin; Gerardo Hilera: violin; Steve Richards: cello; Maurice Grants: cello; Randy Kerber: piano (7); Dan Lutz: bass (7); Bernie Dresel: drums (7); Vince di Mura: piano (15).
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