The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra
's birth (December 12th 1915) and as expected, there have been many tributes to the Chairman of the Board but perhaps, none as unique as the instrumental homage by guitarist Lou Volpe on the splendid Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes: (Songs of Sinatra)
. Why? Because Volpe's finger-picking lyrical style and expressive phrasings succeeds in presenting a vocal instrument of sorts as the guitar "sings" the melody in the same fashion Sinatra voiced the lyrics of each song, with swagger and class.
On tap here are thirteen classic Sinatra songs some, standards drawn from The Great American Songbook, others from more recent times, but all tunes one can easily associate as staple Sinatra songs. The only piece not part of the Sinatra catalogue is Carlos Santana
's classic "Europa" included here as a parting dedication subtitled (Dedicated to the Brilliance of Frank) and is the first of three solo pieces on the album featuring the leader's creative and innovative playing. The other two solo tunes include the gorgeous rendition of "Days of Wine And Roses," and the warm love ballad "Softly as I Leave You."
Volpe employs a quartet format on many of the selections, opening up the album on the standard "I'll Remember April" with Mel Davis
on the keyboards, Stanley Banks
on bass and Buddy Williams
on the drumsall of whom share the duties with other players on different tracks. The Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash standard "Speak Low" undergoes a wonderful transformation bolstered by the cushy percussions of Gary Fritz
as the guitarist weaves his magic on the guitar with one riff after another.
One of Sinatra's staple songs was "It Was A Very Good Year" and on this interpretation one can almost visualize the great singer singing the familiar lyrics on a beautiful rendition by Volpe. With the drummer's crashing cymbal accents leading the way, "A Foggy Day," another Sinatra favorite, takes a twist with a driving groove that makes the piece almost unrecognizable as the melody one is used to hearing. The same can also be stated of the classic "One for My baby" where he begins with a powerful guitar statement which is slightly bluesy in texture presenting yet another unique read of a Sinatra staple.
Other oft-recorded classics that Sinatra employed on many recordings and concerts are, "That's Life," "The Best Is Yet to Come," "I Get A Kick Out of You" and of course, the familiar Cole Porter standard "I've Got You Under My Skin,' performed here with a delicious Brazilian-flair, are all embraced and re-imagined by one of the finest jazz guitarist in the world. One thing is certain, Frank Sinatra will never be forgotten and Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes: (Songs of Sinatra)
, may be one reason to remember guitarist Lou Volpe, not only for this brilliantly-crafted and marvelous homage to a cultural legend, but for his virtuosic, world-class performance.
I’ll Remember April; Speak Low; It Was a Very Good Year; You Go to My Head; A Foggy Day; One for My Baby; The Days of Wine and Roses; That’s Life; Softly as I Leave You; The Best Is Yet to Come; I Get a Kick Out of You; All the Things You Are; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Europa.
Lou Volpe: guitar, keyboards; Delmar Brown: keyboards; Mel Davis: keyboards; Onaje Allan Gumbs: keyboards; Stanley Banks: bass; Leo Traversa: bass; Buddy Williams: drums; Sipho Kunene: drums (13); Gary Fritz: percussion.