Frank SInatra made two studio sessions with the Count Basie Orchestra in the '60's. The first of these, Sinatra-Basie: An Historic Musical First, recorded in 1962, was arranged and conducted by Neal Hefti. The second, It Might As Well Be Swing, made two years later, was a Quincy Jones date. The Hefti session features ten standards, while Quincy's has a more contemporary feel with tunes like "Hello, Dolly," "Wives and Lovers," and "I Can't Stop Loving You," and the use of pronounced backbeats and shuffle rhythms. It also includes the classic "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)," which Quincy translated from a waltz to this definitive arrangement in 4/4 time.
Hefti and Jones were both trumpeters and long admirers of Basie brassmen Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison. Hefti played a crucial role in Basie's success with his revived big band of the 1950's. After disbanding his orchestra in the late '40's and fronting an octet for a couple of years, Basie regrouped in 1951 with Hefti, a veteran of Woody Herman's Second Herd, in tow. Hefti charts like "Little Pony," "Softly With Feeling," and "Two for the Blues," helped define the whisper-to-shout dynamics and ensemble precision of the so-called New Testament Basie band. Their 1958 recording, E=MC²=Count Basie Orchestra+Neal Hefti Arrangements, (reissued as The Atomic Mr. Basie), is among the Desert Island essentials of big band jazz. Hefti's first date with Sinatra was the terrific Sinatra and Swingin' Brass , an album that preceded the Sinatra-Basie session by a year.
Concord has just reissued the two Sinatra-Basie Reprise studio sessions in a remastered edition that includes original liner notes and Stan Cornyn's interview with Quincy Jones. Q describes Sinatra as "so alert musically and so resilient…so flexible musically that he fits easily into every situation." He says that "Basie's drummer, Sonny Payne, remarked at the time what a pleasure it was to work with a singer so musical…a man who, in a sense, was able to swing him" Jones goes on to attribute the magical rapport between Sinatra and Basie to "their remarkable ability to eliminate the negative."
We'll hear several selections from the reissue of The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings in tonight's Jazz à la Mode.