JOHN PIZZARELLI: Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 (Concord)

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Back in 1967 Frank Sinatra released one of his best, yet, oddly, least acclaimed of his albums. It was the great man’s homage to the then contemporary musical craze that had bewitched American sophisticates. The 10 track collaboration with Antonio Carlos Jobim was ‘ol blue eyes’ take on the bossa nova and it was very different to anything he’d recorded before. Indeed he’s said to have remarked after the sessions: “I haven’t sung so soft since I had laryngitis’!

A month or two back, to celebrate the album’s 50th anniversary, it was reissued with the addition of a couple of insightful bonus tracks and now American guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli offers his homage to ‘Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim’.

Known as an inspired reinventor of the Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli tackles the Sinatra album in a new way melding some of the songs into medleys. So where Sinatra offered ‘If You Never Come To Me’, ‘Change Partners’ and ‘I Concentrate On You’ as single tracks, Pizzarelli pairs the first with the second and adds his version of ‘Wave’ to the third. He also includes Jobim’s ‘Agua De Beber’ and ‘Two Kites’ (neither on the original Sinatra LP) along with three other “new” cuts – Michael Franks’ tribute to Jobim, ‘Antonio’s Song’, and two of his own , ‘She’s So Sensitive’ and ‘Canto Casual.’ Then for reasons never quite explained there’s no ‘Girl From Ipanema’ – the first track on the Sinatra long player.

The set’s guest-in-chief is Jobim’s grandson, Daniel who adds vocals and piano on a number of cuts. Given his pedigree and Pizzarelli’s musical CV you can probably guess that their treatments of the classic songs are respectful, tasteful and true to the spirit of their creators while the original songs fit the template perfectly.

And the rasion d’être for the album? Well apart from celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original release, Pizzarelli was interested to explore the concept of “what if Sinatra and Jobim had continued to collaborate?”… this explains the addition of the new material, obviously. Obvious too, that both Sinatra and Jobim would have approved of what Pizzarelli has achieved here.

(BB) 4/5