Festival preview: Frank Sinatra

This article is from 2015

Festival preview: Frank Sinatra

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Frank Sinatra is given the red carpet treatment by the Edinburgh jazz community

Dirty martinis at the ready, Ol' Blue Eyes is coming to the Assembly Rooms this August. Okay, so techniquely it's a homage rather than a comeback, but the BBC Big Band promise to make the great crooner live again in this centenary celebration of his musical imprint as part of the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. We caught up with show producer Bob McDowall, singer Todd Gordon, and Sinatra author Dave Batchelor to find out more about the legend.

Bob McDowall, producer of BBC Big Band Sinatra Centenary Concert
‘It’s Frank’s world, we just live in it.’ That was Dean Martin’s appraisal of his fellow Rat Packer’s influence on the world around him. Frank Sinatra’s musical legacy continues to influence so many artists in today’s music world.

In a career spanning some 60 years, Frank Sinatra was, and for many still is, the greatest ever interpreter of popular song. The chance to celebrate his music as realised by his greatest collaborators (arranger Nelson Riddle and Billy May) in the company of Todd Gordon, Jacqui Dankworth and Curtis Stigers is something the BBC Big Band are all very much looking forward to.

Todd Gordon, singer in BBC Big Band Sinatra Centenary Concert
After discovering his music when I was just 11 years old, Frank Sinatra changed my life. On hearing the seminal album, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!, I started to wonder: when did he breathe? Then I was captivated by the wonderful Nelson Riddle arrangements and that was it: another lifelong Sinatra fan was born. I still recall mum saying: ‘you’re spending all your pocket money on Sinatra LPs; what’s going to happen when you tire of his music?’ Little did she (or I) know that some 30 years later, his influence would result in my later career as a jazz / swing singer.

I only saw Sinatra perform twice: the first time was at the Royal Albert Hall (or (‘Francis Albert Hall’ as he often referred to it) with Buddy Rich and his band. I was rather naive and didn’t realise how much ticket agents could charge. I therefore thought my £55 seat was going to be ringside. Instead, I had a close-up view of the ceiling’s plasterwork! Six years later, I saw him at Ibrox during the 1990 Glasgow City of Culture season of events and he was in great form as indeed was Carol Kidd who opened for him.

There will never be another Sinatra. His voice, his innate musicality and emotional honesty when delivering a lyric, the great songs he recorded, and the amazing musicians and arrangers he worked with: they all contributed to the timeless musical legacy he has left for us and future generations to enjoy.

Dave Batchelor, writer and director of Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music
Scotland only had two chances to hear Frank Sinatra sing live. The first was in the early 50s when he was at his lowest ebb. Nobody came and he was miserable. The second time was at Ibrox in 1990 in front of thousands of adoring fans joining in with every song. Both of these concerts feature in the music drama I’ve written for the festival.

I was at the Ibrox show and it was one of the most inspirationally wonderful concerts I’ve ever experienced. I needed to remember it whenever I was writing a scene where Frank was particularly difficult. After the concert 25 years ago, some friends and I went off to eat and we favoured the restaurant with our renditions of the whole show, still high on the ‘Chairman of the Board’s’ singing. Glasgow tolerance meant we weren’t chucked out as we probably should have been.

BBC Big Band Sinatra Centenary Concert, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 0131 473 2000, 17 Jul, 8pm, £24.50–£37.50; Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, Spiegeltent, George Square, 0131 473 2000, 26 Jul, 8pm, £15.

The BBC Big Band Sinatra Centenary Concert featuring Curtis Stigers, Jacqui Dankworth, Todd Gordon

In his centenary year, we celebrate the master craftsman of popular song. For three decades, Sinatra had no peer in interpreting the classic American songbook and many of his versions are still the definitive ones. Think of “Come Fly With Me”, “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “New York, New York”.

Frank Sinatra: The Man And His Music

A music theatre show. Written and directed by Dave Batchelor. From the creators of last year’s smash hit “Kaiser Bill Invented Jazz”, comes a new show based on Ol' Blue Eyes, the greatest popular singer of the 20th century.  An eight piece band and a rat pack of actors, with special effects and archive images, take you…