Jazz Vocals

Big Bold Sinatra


The Concert Sinatra, newly remastered and released this month, is a collection of classic Broadway tunes, sung with the rarely-heard verses and backed by an orchestra arranged and conducted by the great Nelson Riddle. Recorded in 1963 during Frank Sinatra's heady Reprise period, the original eight tunes are augmented with two bonus tracks.

Not a live concert album, the title refers to a larger than usual orchestra gathered by Riddle -- a musically ambitious undertaking for the era. You could almost think of this as a duo album, for Riddle was arguably as big a superstar in the behind-the-scenes world of arrangers, conductors and orchestrators as Sinatra was on center stage. His strings shimmering down a chromatic scale at the end of the opening verse of "Bewitched" will send chills up your spine.

Recording technology was still in its infancy in '63. Multi-track wasn't yet available so the original engineers created a simulacrum by placing multiple synchronized recorders around the soundstage using film stock instead of the usual two-inch tape. The results are rich and full, 'surround sound' that is only enhanced by state-of-the-art remastering done by a team of engineers led by Frank Sinatra, Jr.

Sinatra, Jr.'s attention to detail and love for his father's music shine in this digitized version. He's also penned new liner notes, adding a personal and professional perspective gleaned from not only family connection but also his years as Sinatra's conductor and musical director.

Sinatra, Sr. is in great voice, more than matching the wow factor of the arrangements and large-scale orchestra. There's a fermata toward the end of "Ole Man River" where he slides down the scale into the depths of his range and into the next phrase with breath control that seems superhuman. Truly a unique project and more than deserving of this technically updated reissue.