This promo CD arrived at the house last week…

… from a good friend and music promoter — Jim Raposa of TheStandardsChannel.com.

When Jim vectors me toward something, I definitely pay attention and after a quick listen to Frank D’Rone: Double Exposure, I jumped it to the top of my post queue.

In a vain attempt to control the chaos, I normally try to keep my content plan for the next three to four weeks pretty locked down, but this LP struck such a chord with me (pun somewhat intended … you’ll understand in a minute) that I just had to get a review tooled up.

Well that, and I simply couldn’t stop listening to it!

Frank D’Rone may be the best classic standards artist…

…that you’ve never heard of. If you are familiar with Frank, all the better (and my apologies).

From my perspective, Frank’s sort of been “hiding” in plain sight … I mean he had (continues to have) an awesome vocalist/jazz guitar career; rubbing shoulders and working with the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett and a vast array of artists, stud jazz musicians and arrangers.

I find it odd that I’ve missed FD’R to date, but on the other hand that is one of the things I enjoy about this genre … the exploration and the discovery of amazing talents both in the classic era and today. With this 2012 release Frank D’Rone actually fit’s both bills.

FD’R certainly falls into the “long lived/still performing” category we’ve touched on recently. If my math’s correct, the guy will turn 80 this April and first hit the stage with a guitar in hand around age five.

I hope to snag an interview with Frank in the coming weeks and plan to ask him about the artists that influenced both his vocal and guitar stylings, but in the mean time I highly recommend Marc Meyers’2010 interview (three parts) with Frank at JazzWax.com. Marc does a great job drawing out D’Rone’s career path and his intersection with Nat Cole, Sinatra and the myriad of other greats Frank crossed paths with over the years.

Sammy and Laurindo warmed me up…

Maybe it was coming off my recent Sammy Davis Jr – Laurindo Almeida review that had me preloaded for D’Rone’s new release.  Or just my primal soft spot for jazz guitar-vocal standards material (John Pizzarelli, his dad Bucky, Sammy-Laurindo) in general … whatever the reason I quickly fell for Frank D’Rone: Double Exposure.

The LP is aptly named … it is split pretty much down the middle with six tracks that leverage an excellent 17 member jazz band arranged and conducted by Phil Kelly, and five numbers where only Frank and his guitar deliver the goods.

Literally interleaved with odd numbered band tracks and even numbered guitar/vocal songs, the flow of the album offers a subtle, emotional arc to the album when played straight through that I didn’t expect.

It’s not a theme album, but alternating between “just FD’R” and the full band accompaniment numbers does render the sense of a story being told. Before you start plucking favorite numbers off the LP for your play list, listen straight through once or twice … it’s very cool.

Frank possesses a wonderfully resonant and lyrical vocal style that reminds me of Jack Jones … with an occasional dusting of Mel Tormé. If he was forty, the vocal range, control and dexterity D’Rone demonstrates on Double Exposure would be impressive — at 79 it’s downright scary. This guy can cook!

My favs…

The full track list is detailed below, but a couple of personal standouts … actually two or three each from the solo guitar and band “sides” of the LP.

On the “band side”, I’ve always been a sucker for Weill/Nash’s “Speak Low” and the band accompaniment here wonderfully compliments D’Rone … this is a great song selection for FD’R’s low cast intonation and redolent vocals.

Likewise a great selection and a demo for Frank’s scat style and guitar work is “Pick Yourself Up”. Then there’s the closing number… a great cover of “Lover Come Back To Me” with the horns/winds in full regalia.

On the “solo side” of the LP it’s almost too hard to choose. Frank’s nimble guitar work and rich vocals meld beautifully across all five of these tracks.

If I had to pick a couple … I’m drawn to D’Rone’s version of “The Very Thought Of You” and the haunting rendition of Rodgers and Hart’s show tune “Dancing On The Ceiling” may be my favorite song on the LP.

Now I know why…

…guys like Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Nat Cole had so much regard for Frank D’Rone. I’m looking forward to listening to some of his recordings from the 50’s and 60’s to hear the FD’R that caught Sinatra and his cronies attention.

Then — when the ice melts — I’m going to head north and catch D’Rone at one of the Chicagoland jazz venues where he regularly performs … I gotta see this guy!

Track List — Frank D’Rone: Double Exposure

(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)
The overall production is superior … Whaling City Sound and Phil Kelly did a great job on this release.
* D’Rone/Guitar only tracks

1 When the Sun Comes Out (4:14) +++ Jazzy Dorsey number to lead out … very nice Tormé-esk trail off
2 Make Someone Happy * (4:43) ++++ great sentimental number; the first taste of the solo songs
3 Pure Imagination (4:19) ++ Anthony Newley’s Wonka classic
4 Just Imagine * (4:06) ++++ Wonderfully balanced …dexterous vocals and elegant guitar
5 Pick Yourself Up (4:10) ++++ scat-tastic!
6 Very Thought Of You * (4:22) ++++ commanding vocals counterbalance delicate guitar work
7 One I Love (4:14) +++ Great number
8 Dancing on the Ceiling * (3:54) ++++ If I had to pick just one…
9 Speak Low (4:56) ++++ a favorite from the “band side” … subtle but still swinging band number
10 Oh You Crazy Moon * (4:01) ++++ OK, maybe this is THE one…
11 Lover Come Back to Me (4:57) ++++ Jazzy pizazz goodness from Hammerstein’s vault

 

 

 

Share
  • Bmizock

    Frank has upcoming gigs in Chicago at the Green Mill in Chicago at the end of May and at the Jazz Showcase in June. Be there or be square!

    • vs_guy

      Circling around the May/June timeframe … should be warm by then! 😉

  • Franks been our Chicago secret for too long. A major early influence on me..he’s the real deal!
    Libby York

    • vs_guy

      Libby, Thanks for stopping by! I agree … Frank is the real deal. I was blown away by this LP and it has me jazzed to set a trip to Chicago to catch him on stage.

  • Pingback: A Birthday Tribute to Nat King Cole()

  • Donnamae1217

    Fantastic article as is Frank. He has been the best vocalist & jazz guitarist anyone could listen to. Frank is extremely talented & is as nice a person as you can meet. We’ve seen Frank hundreds of times & each time are amazed with his talent. One would not believe his age, his voice is still outstanding. Donna & Quinn

    • vs_guy

      I’m jealous of your “Frank D’Rone exposure quotient” — hundreds of times! I’m looking forward to catching him sometime this summer and can’t wait. And you’re so right about now fine a man he is … I was lucky enough to have a chat with him on the phone last week — what a nice man.

      Stop back by soon … I plan to do a review of Frank’s awesome 1960 album release — After the Ball — for his upcoming 80th birthday, and still hope to snag an interview with him later this summer.

      Thanks for stopping by Donna & Quinn!

  • Marcia Dellefield

    Just received my multiple copies of Double Exposure. I am mesmerized by the voice, the selection of songs, Phil Kelly’s arrangements, and the album cover. Since I have been a fan of Frank’s since I was 20 and am now in my 70’s, this is truly a gift to be able to listen to his special and unique presentations at this time in his life. Will definitely be at Chambers Restaurant in Niles in May and at the Jazz Showcase to listen to that great voice in person! Thanks for your awesome write-up.

    Marcia Dellefield

    • vs_guy

      Great to hear from you Marcia. Frank is an amazing talent … and just a great guy. He has a landmark birthday coming up very soon — his 80th! I recently listened to his 1960 release (“After the Ball”) and was amazed how similar “young Frank” and today’s Frank sound … if anything I think the years have deepened and enriched his vocals. I’ll be doing a review of “After the Ball” this coming week for Frank’s birthday.

  • Pingback: Happy Birthday Frank D'Rone!()

  • Pingback: Frankie, Shirley and me...()