Frank Sinatra – Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K. – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album. 

Notice that, at least for most of the material, and perhaps all of it, Sinatra does not seem to be stuck in a vocal booth. He sounds like he is actually standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band.

Whether this is a recording trick — he’s in a booth but the engineer did a great job creating a sound for the booth that matched the ambience and space of the studio — or whether he is standing front and center with the band, the illusion is convincing and adds greatly to the “reality” of the performance..

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.

Extraordinary Engineering

One of the top guys at Warners and Reprise, LEE HERSCHBERG engineered this album as well as a great many others for Sinatra. You’ll find Herschberg’s name in the credits of many of the best Ry Cooder, Doobie Brothers and Gordon Lightfoot albums, titles we know to have excellent sound on the best copies — not to mention an album most audiophiles know all too well, Rickie Lee Jones’ debut. His pop and rock engineering credits run for pages. Won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night even.

The most amazing jazz piano trio recording we know of is on the list as well: The Three (Shelly Manne, Ray Brown and Joe Sample), along with most of the other Direct to Disc recordings released on Eastwind.

The album that gets my vote for Herschberg’s Pop Engineering Masterpiece would have to be Michael McDonald’s If That’s What It Takes. On the best copies the sound is out of this world.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Follow Me 
Sunny 
All I Need Is The Girl 
Indian Summer

Side Two

I Like The Sunrise 
Yellow Days 
Poor Butterfly 
Come Back To Me

Amazon Review

Recorded on Sinatra’s birthday in 1967, this collaboration between America’s most popular singing icon and pre-eminent jazz composer still endures as one of Sinatra’s most enjoyable Reprise-era albums.

The Ellington Orchestra stretches out in style, with the five-man horn section (including trumpeter Cootie Williams and saxophonist Johnny Hodges) expertly counterpointing the Chairman’s assured vocalizations on “All I Need Is the Girl,” “Follow Me” and Ellington’s “I Like the Sunrise.” Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” works surprisingly well (Sinatra sounds as if he’s singing it to Frank Jr.), and “Indian Summer” is heart-stoppingly lovely.

Francis A. & Edward K offers ample proof that, provided with properly challenging material, Sinatra could still astound and amaze. Sadly, the record sold poorly, presaging a move towards poppier pastures.
–Dan Epstein