Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim: Sinatra/Jobim – The Complete Reprise Recordings

Quiet, masterful duets by Sinatra and Jobim

By 1967 Frank Sinatra was riding yet another wave of artistic and popular success. After career highs as a big band singer, a solo artist for Columbia, an innovative solo artist for Capitol and the founder of his own label, Reprise, Sinatra found commercial gold in 1966 with “Strangers in the Night” and “That’s Life.” In 1967 he recorded both the chart-topping “Something Stupid” and this artistically rich album of bossa nova tunes. Pairing with Brazil’s most popular musical exponent, Sinatra gave Antonio Carlos Jobim’s originals (and three American songbook standards) the deft lyrical touch that marked the vocalist’s best recordings. Jobim, in turn, gave Sinatra a hip outlet that was more sophisticated than reworking contemporary pop songs. Also contributing to the superb final results was arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman, whose charts gave Sinatra space to sing with a quiet ease.

Sinatra sounds unusually relaxed in these sessions, swinging ever so lightly to Jobim’s percussive finger-played acoustic guitar, and the moody strings, breezy woodwinds and muted horns of Ogerman’s arrangements. The easy tempos give Sinatra a chance to explore Jobim’s songs, hold notes and show off the textures of his voice. The recording and mix show off the brilliant results engineer Lee Herschberg accomplished in capturing the nuances of Sinatra’s voice. Jobim adds vocal support with occasional alternating or duet lines, and provides both Brazilian flavor and contrast that highlight the incredible quality of Sinatra’s tone. Three nighttime sessions yielded ten final tracks, which were released as the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, and climbed into the Top 20 on the album chart.

Sinatra moved on to other projects, including an album with Duke Ellington (Francis A. & Edward K.), a family Christmas album, an album of pop and folk rock (Cycles), and the triumphant My Way. But in 1969 he and Jobim returned to Western Recorders for three more nights to lay down ten more bossa nova styled tracks for an album tentatively titled Sinatra-Jobim. But two years later on, Jobim was writing more complex melodies that weren’t as easy for Sinatra to vocalize, and new arranger Eumir Deodato’s charts are more insistent than those Claus Ogerman scripted for the first album. Sinatra sounds rehearsed (which he was) rather than organically warmed up, and his vocals don’t lay into the arrangements as effortlessly or seamlessly as before. Still, there’s chemistry between Sinatra and Jobim, and though the former was particularly unhappy with his performances on “Bonita,” “Off Key (Desafinado)” and “The Song of the Sabia,” the project went ahead with its release plan.

Sinatra-Jobim was finalized, cover art produced and a limited number of 8-track tape editions released to market before Sinatra killed the project. The 8-tracks that got into the wild have since become collectors’ items. The seven tracks with which Sinatra was relatively happy were re-released in 1971 as side one of Sinatra & Company, two more (“Bonita” and “The Song of the Sabia”) were later released on the 1977 Reprise compilation Portrait of Sinatra, and the 1977 Brazilian double-LP Sinatra-Jobim Sessions, and the third (“Off Key (Desafinado)”) was finally released on 1995’s epic The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings. Pulled together into a single 58-minute disc, it turns out Sinatra was right, the vocals from the second sessions, particularly the three delayed tracks, are not up to his standards. The stars simply didn’t align for the 1969 sessions as they did two years earlier.

The cool of “Girl From Ipanema,” the thoughtful regret and sadness of “How Insensitive,” and the percussive delicacy of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” aren’t matched by anything on the follow-up. Sinatra and Jobim were deeply in the pocket for their initial collaboration, and though “Don’t Every Go Away” and “Wave” find them once again simpatico, Sinatra simply wasn’t as deft the second time out. Concord’s reissue includes the cover art (and unprocessed base photograph) of the aborted Sinatra-Jobim album, and a cropped, black-and-white version of the first album’s cover photo. Veteran Warner Brothers/Reprise writer Stan Cornyn provides new liner notes in his typical riff-heavy, hyperbolic style, and Dan Hersch’s 24-bit digital remastering sparkles. All that’s really missing is Sinatra and Jobim’s 1994 collaboration on “Fly Me to the Moon,” but that’s a nit: the first album is gold, with or without extras. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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