…Laurindo Almeida plays

My review of The Concert Sinatra a couple of weeks ago triggered several email exchanges with some Sinatra fans, and one of those conversations gravitated to the Sinatra-Jobim studio LPs.

Chatting about Frank’s Jobim theme albums got me to thinking about Sammy’s work with Laurindo Almeida. Well, one thing lead to another and before I knew it I bought a used copy of the 1991 re-release of the original 1966 Reprise recordings … for $75!

This is going to be sort of a strange review in that Sammy Davis Jr. sings and Laurindo Almeida plays is an exceedingly hard LP to find  and will run you anywhere from $40 to $200 (depending on condition and seller’s greed) when you do. Does it make much sense to review an album that is crazy hard to find and crazy expensive when you do find it?

It does when the record in question is THE seminal work for the artist, and Sammy Davis Jr. sings and Laurindo Almeida plays is just that — Sammy Davis Jr. with only Laurindo’s classic guitar accompaniment — SDjr unfettered, unadorned, pure.

A Man Almost Too Talented…

Will Friedwald, in his excellent book A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, talks about how Sammy’s amazingly diverse talent set (singing, dancing, acting, broadway, musician, impressions…) and vocal style dexterity kept him in pretty much constant creative motion — remaking himself from album to album, even song to song within the same performance.

Will speculates that this tendency to flitter from one style to the next kept SDjr from developing the depth and critical recognition his Rat Pack counterparts were able to accomplish — never staying in one domain or with one style long enough to garner the acclaim Sammy’s talent really deserved. I think that’s probably true and one of the reasons that many people only associate Sammy with a few kitschy and insanely popular late career “hits” like “The Candy Man” and “Mr. Bojangles” (read my rant on this topic here).

A theme album that’s not REALLY a theme album…

Though Sammy Davis Jr. sings and Laurindo Almeida plays appears at first blush to be a theme work in the same vein as Frank’s Jobim exercises, I see it differently.

Clearly Laurindo’s classic guitar accompaniment can be viewed as musically thematic, but there’s no driving bossanova song list or dedication to Broadway in the Sinatra “themed album” tradition. In fact Sammy’s song selection is broad — traversing turn-of-the-century standards, popular songbook numbers and Broadway tunes.

Sammy’s diverse set list suggests to me that the only “theme” at work here is purity. The bombastic band arrangements and assertive vocal tracks more typical of SDjr’s record catalog are nowhere in sight.

What an aptly named album … Sammy Davis Jr. Sings and Laurindo Almeida plays… just the triple distilled, pure but emotive vocal tones of Sammy Davis Jr. buttressed by Laurindo’s beautifully singular guitar accompaniment. A counter point to Sammy’s vast career diversity that reveals, an essence … a truth of the man we saw so often but really never knew.

The actual album art for the 1991 CD release

Sammy Sings…

As diverse as the track list is, its almost surprising that all eleven songs on this release are so strong. A couple of the tracks were released on the outstanding compendium album — Yes I Can: The Sammy Davis Jr Story — and they standout for me from years of listening. But “Here’s That Rainy Day” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye” are joined by stellar versions of “Two Different Worlds”, “The Shadow of Your Smile”, “Speak Low” and a wonderful version of “Misty”.

“Where is Love” from the Broadway’s Oliver is also not to be missed. In fact, I’m going to do something I rarely do and link in a few of these numbers from YouTube. I’m a big believer in properly licensed content, but the fact that this album is woefully out of production changes my perspective in this case … the fact that someone painstakingly uploaded relatively good editions of these songs doesn’t hurt.

I don’t know who manages SDjr’s estate, but I wish they would find a way to get this album re-released … put the original Reprise material in the hands of the fine folks at Concord Music and I can only imagine how cool and successful a remaster of this album could be. But since that scenario is not likely in the foreseeable…

First up are tracks “Here’s that Rainy Day” and “Two Different Worlds” together on this video…

…”The Shadow of Your Smile” with it’s slight tempo bump

Next “Where is Love” from Oliver)

Johnny Mathis kills with “Misty” but Sammy is so good here …


The Track List — Sammy Davis Jr. sings and Laurido Almeida plays

(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

1 Here’s That Rainy Day (Heusen) 2:21 ++++ (Only song of the list available for download … get it!)
2 Two Different Worlds (Frisch) 3:24 ++++(lyrical, tragic, beautiful)
3 The Shadow of Your Smile (Mandel) 4:19 +++(mild up tempo bump from Laurindo)
4 Where Is Love? (Bart) 3:05 +++ (Broadway makes it’s first appearance)
5 Every Time We Say Goodbye (Porter) 4:07 +++ (Sammy and Cole Porter)
6 I’m Always Chasing Rainbows (Carroll, McCarthy) 2:26 +++ (Introspective Sammy classic with awesome Laurindo lead in)
7 We’ll Be Together Again (Fischer, Laine) 3:18 +++
8 Joey, Joey, Joey (Kriegsmann, Loesser, Salmirs) 4:24 ++ (more Broadway)
9 The Folks Who Live on the Hill (Kern) 3:50 +++ (Peggy Lee’s hit rendered wonderfully)
10 Speak Low (Brunner, Tate, Weill, Wilton) 3:38 +++ (Sultry classic also from the stage … great ending)
11 Misty (Garner) 2:20 ++++ (a Mathis fav wonderfully rethought here)

I believe that “Here’s that Rainy Day” is available as a digital download … at least find that if you can’t pony up the $ for a used CD.