Writings about Music

The Summer Kisses

Found this rare Frank Sinatra performance embedded within a Tonight Show hosted by Joey Bishop. Sinatra’s memorable rendering of Angel Eyes commences at the 23:00 mark. This performance reminded me how Lee Konitz nearly knocked me off my chair when during a lesson I asked him who he listened to for inspiration, expecting to hear names like Lester Young or Benny Goodman, but instead he replied: "Frank Sinatra". At the time, I was unfamiliar with Sinatra's music, and how lyrics are an essential component of jazz history, bringing the music to life through the inner consciousness of instrumentalists. Sharing this Sinatra performance with Andreas Scherrer, he recalled how Konitz once told him that he thinks the way Sinatra sings standards is the best way for musicians to get into those songs, referring to jazz standards.

 

Angel Eyes (23:00) was composed by Matt Dennis with lyrics by Earl Brent.

 

I didn’t find any words from the lyrics of Angel Eyes fitting for the title of this essay, so I turned to other lyrics, those for Autumn Leaves. Here is Sinatra singing that ineffable song.

 

Autumn leaves was composed by Joseph Kosma with lyrics by Jacques Prevert (French) and Johnny Mercer (English).

 

Last week, out for a walk, I met a neighbor after commenting about her adorable dog. As it turns out, she grew up in Atlantic City, and owned a talent agency there, working frequently with the 500 Club owned by Paul "Skinny" D’Amato, a close friend of Frank Sinatra. Many of the leading entertainers of the time, including Sinatra, performed at the club, also known as The Five, open from the thirties to the early seventies.

My favorite recording of Autumn Leaves growing up was by Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. Either Ammons or Stitt at their best is as good as jazz gets.

 

Gene Ammons (right) and Sonny Stitt (left) represent two original pinnacles of jazz saxophone artistry echoing into eternity.

 

There are myriad great recordings of Autumn Leaves, of course. Here’s a terrific version by a duo of Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson. Dizzy’s playing continues to rise for myself. I recall when discussing Charlie Parker with Mel Powell, he stated that while he admired Parker, he enjoyed Gillespie even more. Most recently, Dizzy has become the jazz artist I listen to the most. His incredibly musical usage of the trumpet’s upper register; his stunningly bold expressive exclamations; his sublimely slippery melodic lines rhythmically as fluid as a Himalayan stream, all amaze like brand new epiphanies. The origins of Dizzy’s Oriental strain remain mysterious, but I suppose I will eventually find out where it stems from. No doubt, that’s where John Coltrane was exposed, playing with Gillespie during his formative years.

 

This pairing of Gillespie and Peterson yielded an especially potent brew.

 

Caravan is my favorite track from the album, composed by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington with lyrics by Irving Mills.

 

Ending with some welcome Hasya Rasa, here is Frank Sinatra performing Autumn Leaves with Bob Hope on piano.

 

 

The title of this writing, again from the lyrics of Autumn Leaves, exemplifies Shringara Rasa, regarded as the primary motivation behind music itself.

- Michael Robinson, May 2019, Los Angeles

 

© 2019 Michael Robinson All rights reserved

 

Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).