Today marks the celebration of Frank Sinatra’s 100th anniversary, and there’s been so much to celebrate this year. I myself have always been a big fan, and being one who mostly just loved his music, decided in recent years to find out more about the man and how his mind worked with the music. So I dedicate this post to him.
Looking back over 10 years ago when I was in college, I was a big advocate for modern classical music, and loved to play it on the flute, main primary instrument. It was my sophomore year when I decided that I wanted to try something more out of the box than what was going in my flute studio, so I decided to look into jazz. I started taking jazz lessons during the summer from the Grand Hotel music director Alex Graham, who very generously made time in his summer schedule to meet with me once a week and teach me the basics. Even though I was still wet behind the ears with improvising, I managed to convince him to let me play a one or two times with the jazz band in the Terrace Room at the Grand Hotel, and had a blast! My big numbers at the time were Spanish Eyes and Cheek to Cheek… once the summer ended, I found another teacher at college who would teach me during the school year, and who would also be a great person to play with, where I could put everything I was learning into practice.
Both teachers encouraged me to listen to all kinds of jazz musicians out there, not just jazz flute, and I did. But I still listened to a lot of jazz flute! I was never a huge fan of 70’s jazz flute, though, and I’m sure you’re all familiar with Ron Burgundy’s famous flute solo in Anchorman… that was NOT what I was going for! I was actually pretty interested in the simple solos of earlier jazz and blues, and although, looking back, I probably understood it more than I preferred it over other eras of jazz, over the years I’ve grown to love 30s, 40s and 50s jazz more than anything else. It wasn’t until I heard Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, an album by Frank Sinatra, that I started to get a better feeling for how I could relate myself to jazz music.
That particular album has a lot of jazz flute… but it’s simple, subtle, and sticks in your head, all at the same time, humming the tunes long after you’re done listening to the recordings. That was the kind of jazz I wanted to play. After reading Frank Sinatra: The Voice, I learned that Nelson Riddle, who arranged the music for that album, was (or would become) known for his use of flute in his arrangements.
That Riddle was a good, good man, in my opinion.
In more recent years, Sinatra’s voice has been more of a comfort for me and I keep it high up on my playlists. It’s this kind of music that helps me wind down at the end of the day, and his voice that is easily relaxing to the ear, and after my first year teaching on the island, I would always listen to his music after school got out while I was cleaning up from my last class. Eventually I found out that my students thought that the only thing I listened to was Frank Sinatra! Not that there’s anything wrong with that… but in an effort to relate to the students better, I added some other musicians into my after-school playlist too.
So in honor of Frank Sinatra… and also Nelson Riddle…and to all things jazz flute… I end this post with one of my favorites from Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, I Thought About You.