Writings about Music

That Gleam That Flows With Grace:

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra with Frank Sinatra

Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra

Incredibly subtle, incredibly deep, incredibly rich in terms of timbral colorations. These are only a few thoughts pertaining to the collaborative recording made by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra joining with Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra had an uncanny ability to blend into the collective heart of the musicians he recorded with, absorbing all the musical and emotional glints and shadings, and here with the finest of jazz ensembles, as done previously with the Count Basie Orchestra, and superior studio musicians, he elevates towards rasas never heard before or since.

The first track that gained my attention is "All I Need Is The Girl," fortuitously programmed by Jerry Sharell on his stellar show. The tempo is perfect, the annunciation is perfect, the accents are perfect, the dynamics are perfect - you see where I'm going with this being simply overwhelmed by the music.

And "Sunny," a song I've been mostly ambivalent about, scores a thousand grand slams, again getting all the dimensions perfect.

Each and every track is a priceless gem, from "Yellow Days" to "Follow Me" to "Indian Summer" to "I Like the Sunrise" to "Poor Butterfly" to "Come Back to Me."

Each and every time I listen to this recording, titled Frances A & Edward K, I am astonished by how seamlessly intertwined everyone is even though there was concern on the occasion for not having enough rehearsal time. One account states trumpeter Al Porcino was added uncredited to Duke's orchestra for the December 11 and 12, 1967 sessions, the album released in 1968.

Billy May earns boundless admiration for composing all the arrangements, creating the sonic structures allowing for this timeless, inspired collaboration to take flight beyond.

 

All in all, this recording epitomizes something Miles Davis said in a 1969 interview with British journalist Les Tomkins: "But me and the guys I grew up with, we used to sit and listen to music, and we didn't care who was playing or what colour you were. I heard Buddy Rich—damn, he could play! Gene Krupa, you know. All them musicians came down and jammed with us."

- Michael Robinson, June 2021, Los Angeles

 

© 2021 Michael Robinson All rights reserved

 

Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and musicologist who has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.