Quick hitting VocalStandards updates, news and short articles ...

Deana Martin w Music…or at least that’s what it seems when it comes to pushing out fresh LPs.

I’ve been laying low for the last couple of … years (yikes!) but Deana’s Facebook post seeking song recommendations for her upcoming album shook me out of my work-a-day malaise. I just had to re-enter the fray to continue the “Where the hell is the music?” lament that I started back during the holidays of 2012.

The point I made then is even more painful today — very few Vocal Standards albums are getting made and marketed. Other than Deana Martin’s fabulous Destination Moon LP and Steve Tyrell’s absolutely awesome It’s Magic – The Songs of Sammy Cahn offering, there’s been a dearth of standards vocal work published.

This with such promising announced or at least expected CDs supposedly on the way from some of the greats. Robert Davi and Joseph Leo Bwarie were supposedly in the studio working to deliver followup LPs to their excellent debut albums. That was two years ago …what happened?

I was and remain SO ready for the next iteration of the amazing team up of Joe Leo’s vocals and Charlie Calello’s arrangements/conducting; not to mention another traverse of Sinatra’s canon by Mr. Davi. If history is any indicator, we should get the talented Mr. Calello’s handiwork with Deana’s next LP but it kills me to think that some great studio work from JLB and RD is sitting on a shelf somewhere when it could be bouncing off my walls every Saturday night!

To be fair, some interesting LPs have popped out of late …Elaine Elias made a very nice Chet Baker tribute album, Curtis Stigers tossed out the cool and jazzy Hooray for Love, even Gloria Estefan gave it a shot, but where are the goods from Nikki Yanofsky, Peter Cincotti, Bublé, Torme, Davi, Bwarie, Blu, Krall (that ragtime offering just didn’t count), Connick Jr. (every man should avoid the 2013 Every Man LP)?

I think there's a studio in here that might work! ;-)

So Mr. Record Label guy(s) …where the hell is the music?

Like I’ve said before, if you can’t make it work with the old school record marketing/distribution model, then figure something else out. I know the age of an LP per year has gone the way of bell bottom pants (I think Nancy Wilson produced 10 LPs one year back in the ’60s), but there’s a big bad digital world out there that you can either embrace, or let it eat you.

Love it, live it and SHIP SOME DAMN STANDARDS LPS!


Nelson RiddleHad he not died way too young…

…(in 1985 at age 64), Nelson Riddle would be celebrating his 92nd birthday today.

There are many, fabulous arrangers and conductors strewn throughout the pages of the Great American Songbook … Marty Paich, Paul Weston, Billy May, André Previn — far too many to do justice to the trade here. Though they all brought beautiful music to life in their unique styles, there are few that can truly be tagged with the over used and oft misplaced tag of “iconic”.

Mr. Riddle can carry that moniker without reproach. For me, Nelson’s charts (especially his string charts) and style were fundamental to the music that underwrote the “vocal artist era” from the mid ’50’s through the early ’70’s. [Read more…]


Frank SinatraNo one wore a fedora better…

…but more than just being a dapper dresser, Frank Sinatra really believed that clothes very much made the man.

He was even willing to fight over proper dress as Frank’s “encounter” with Harlan Ellison in a Hollywood pool hall was recounted by Gay Talese in his classic Esquire article.

Indeed there are many anecdotes related to Sinatra and his “dress for success” orientation … a new one popped out of the aether earlier this week.

This time it comes from one of the kingpins of mens fashion — Richard Press — who worked the family business (J. Press) “back in the day” and became Frank’s goto clothier … for awhile anyway.

Richard contributes to Ivy Style — a website that chronicles men’s fashions since the 1920’s. I’m not much of a fashion guy but some of Ivy Style pieces focused on the 50’s and 60’s are very cool and capture an interesting slice of mid-century America and the Rat Pack/”Mad Men” era.

Mr. Press’s article on his relationship with Mr. S (Golden Years: My Brief Bromance With Frank Sinatra) is a light hearted, quick, and fun read but it also leaves us with a bit more insight into Frank Sinatra the man.

It’s worth the click through … check it out (here).

© Louis Armstrong House

© Louis Armstrong House

Louis Armstrong loved Christmas…

Coming from profound poverty, Louis didn’t experience much Christmas spirit as a kid. His amazing talent raised him and his family out of the “battle zone” in New Orleans, and with that new view of the “Wonderful World” LA developed a great love for Christmas.

Louis’ popularity and massive success allowed him to share his love for the spirit of the holiday with the world over his life; he displayed a zest for sharing the Christmas spirit through out his long career.

Robin Young and the fine folks at the Here & Now studio of NPR rolled up a wonderful 18 minute Louis/Christmas biopic — “Louis Armstrong Recordings Evoke Jazz Great At Christmas” — that highlights the Louis Armstrong at Christmastime.

The show is driven by an interview thread with the archivist/curators of the Louis Armstrong House in Queens and includes music snippets, personal recording and some interesting personal anecdotes.

Louis’s view of success…

I won’t steal the thunder form the Here & Now piece, but the most LA insightful portion of the biopic for me was how Louis Armstrong — at the peak of his career — defined success:

Ricky Riccardi (Archivist, Louis Armstrong House) on Louis’ definition of success:

“I’ll tell you one of my favorite stories. In August of 1967 Louis did two weeks in Framingham, Massachusetts, and his good buddy Jack Bradley was there and Jack tells a story that they’re in Louis’ motel room, and this is not a suite. It’s a little rundown motel on the side of the road. And Louis tells Jack, “You know, Jack? I’ve really made it.” And Jack says, “Uh, what do you mean?” And Louis says, “Anytime I’m hungry, I could walk over to the refrigerator, get an egg, and make myself something to eat. I’ve really made it.” And Jack said he had tears in his eyes. And he told him, “You know, you should have filet mignon three times a day,” and Louis just brushed him off. That was the height of his success. By this point, he had “Hello Dolly”, 35 movies, TV every week, but the fact that he can make an egg sandwich anytime he wanted, that was it. He had really made it.”

Take 18 minutes out of your Christmas day to stop over to Here & Now and listen to “Christmas with Louis” …

And Merry Christmas!




Silver Bells - Jonny BluThe young voices are busy…

…this holiday season.

As we settle into Christmas eve there are a few live performance updates and some VS news worth noting.

The Fresh Face gang is particularly active this season and the pace picked up yesterday with Jonny Blu’s release of his holiday single — “Silver Bells”.

Similar in style to the material in his recent The Ukelele Experience, Vol. One album release, Jonny brings a lilting, quieter vibe to the Christmas table with “Silver Bells”.

It’s good stuff … not up to his stellar  2011 Christmas release — “Holiday for Two” — but still worth folding in amongst the swing’n numbers and traditional fare on your holiday playlist.

Give it a listen and then head over to Jonny’s ReverbNation download site for a free download.

“Silver Bells” – Jonny Blu*

Then on the live performance front… [Read more…]


Rod surprised me…

…with his Merry Christmas, Baby holiday album release (Verve) … it’s actually pretty darned good! This came as news to me so it seemed apropos to land this mini review in the VS News section.

I have nothing but respect for Rod Stewart. The attention, appreciation and new listeners he’s brought to the Great American Songbook is a beautiful thing.

That said, Rod’s raspy interpretations of the standards have been largely lost on me (no surprise to regular VS readers, assuming you exist) with his high “gravel & smoke” vocal style firmly set in the ’70’s rock scene of my personal music perspective … think “Maggie May”, “Mandolin Wind” and the like.

Ray shamed me…

My trombone wielding buddy Ray, rang me up gushing about how much he liked Rod’s new release … really? I gave the LP a cursory listen and then I played my typical “I can’t get my head around Rod singing the standards” card and moved on … cold heartless bastard that I am.

But then, while stuck in traffic and really not wanting to spurn Martiniinthemorning.com by changing the channel, I actually LISTENED to a few tracks off the album as they came lilting across the radio waves and a funny thing happened … I, uh, liked it. Weird, I know, right! [Read more…]


© Life Magazine (Time Inc.)

It’s Frank Sinatra’s Birthday…

…you will find many tribute pieces and celebration events this week commemorating Frank’s life and accomplishments.

Anecdotes covering many aspects of Frank’s life, associations and career will surface, but I think the best Sinatra tribute comes from the archives of Life Magazine … a wonderful a photo essay and excerpt from their April, 1965 article — “Life With Sinatra: Portrait of ‘The Voice’ in 1965“.

Twenty-six beautiful photos revealing the more private side of Frank Sinatra’s life, along with some very interesting take-away quotes from Mr. S about how he approached his craft and developed his unique vocal style. My favorite slice of Frank’s offering in the Life’s  “The Private World and Thoughts of Frank Sinatra”:

“I don’t read a note of music. I learn songs by having them played for me a couple of times while I read the lyrics. I can pick up the melody very quickly. I learn the lyrics by writing them out in longhand. When I get a new song, I look for continuity of melody that in itself will tell a musical story.” — Frank Sinatra 1965

It’s a great photo essay and short read on Frank … a perfect way to celebrate the life of “The Voice”, Frank Sinatra. Stop by Life Magazine’s site and give it a look (here again).

Celebrate with me…

Though Frank’s popularity rests with his swing’n numbers, torturous saloon ballads and love songs, some of his best stuff for my money — and maybe the best examples of Frank using his voice as an instrument — comes from his plying Broadway’s best.

Just listen to this rendition of “I Have Dreamed” (The King and I – Rodgers and Hammerstein) that Frank laid down with Nelson Riddle and his 96 piece orchestra on The Concert Sinatra LP (1961) (VS review here) and see if you don’t agree:

 “I Have Dreamed” – Frank Sinatra*

Take in one of the many live performance celebrations commemorating Frank’s birthday if you can. (BTW, I think Robert Davi added a late show to one of his Vibrato concert dates tonight or tomorrow). But if you can’t make the scene at one of the live events, spin your favorite Sinatra magic at home this evening and toast the amazing Francis Albert Sinatra with me.

Happy Birthday Mr. S!

[* Please remember that all songs streamed here are for REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT intended as a substitute for properly purchased original record company product. Give a listen and then please support the artists via iTunes, Amazon or your favorite music store. Artists/Record Labels — NO DOWNLOADS ARE SUPPORTED on this site; please contact me directly regarding the removal of any potentially infringing material.] 



December is a big month…

…for Rat Pack dates of import. Later this week Mr. Francis Sinatra’s birthday will be widely celebrated … and of course Christmas day is always somewhat bitter sweet for ‘pack fans as it marks the passing of Dean Martin.

But today is Sammy’s birthday, and he should garner some well deserved time in the spotlight on his special day.

I’ve previously highlighted that, in my opinion, Sammy was arguably the most talented member of the Rat Pack (here and here). He was masterful at many talents… singing, dancing, acting, comedy, imitations … and in fact to some degree his dexterity worked against his career success because he constantly strove to explore new performing styles and display his varied talents rather than focus.

The consummate Entertainer …

One result of Sammy’s diverse and exploratory approach was that he became an entertainer extraordinaire … there are few — maybe none — that have come before or since Sammy Davis Jr that could take the stage and hold a crowd hostage for hours like he could. SDjr was a one man variety show.

And for all the knocks about his lack of focus, Sammy took chances with his music and nearly always came up a winner. His vocal stylings were wonderfully pleasing and unique.

In fact, SDjr’s swinging version of “Jingle Bells” is still my favorite rendition of this holiday classic (this is indeed a great number but I can’t determine who arranged it … I’d love to find out if anyone out there knows).

Celebrate Sammy Davis Jr’s birthday with me today, and grab some holiday cheer as only “Sam the Man” can deliver it…

“Jingle Bells” – Sammy Davis Jr.*

[* Please remember that all songs streamed here are for REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT intended as a substitute for properly purchased original record company product. Give a listen and then please support the artists via iTunes, Amazon or your favorite music store. Artists/Record Labels — NO DOWNLOADS ARE SUPPORTED on this site; please contact me directly regarding the removal of any potentially infringing material.]