In The News
Frank Sinatra Jazz Salute
by Harvey Barkan
LA Jazz Scene
It was a pleasantly cool, breezy evening in the Hollywood & Highland Center Courtyard, adjacent to the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, steps away from the landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This was a celebration of the music of Frank Sinatra, presented by jazz radio KKJZ 88.1 FM as a jazz salute, hosted by on-air personality Chuck Southcott.
Whether called Frances Albert Sinatra, The Voice, Ol’ Blue Eyes, or just Frank, he still represents the ultimate male voice of the 20th century to many music fans. The impressive group of musicians tonight played without music charts, improvising through the Sinatra associated tunes. Some of them had worked and traveled with him for decades.
Judy Chamberlain served as master of ceremonies, in addition to excellent vocals, amazingly remembering all the lyrics on the long play-list, and sharing leadership tonight with Sinatra’s remarkable guitarist for some 30 years, the one and only Al Viola. The musicians were the high quality that Frank Sinatra always insisted upon, and as mentioned, some were actually “Frank’s guys.”
We are so fortunate in Los Angeles to have musicians of this caliber available for such a high-spirited, melodic impromptu concert that included the beautiful guitar features by Viola; the crisp, precise vibes work of Emil Richards, also with Sinatra for many years; wonderful tones and lines of Steve Wilkerson’s baritone sax and clarinet; Chamberlain’s effective call for Benjamin May’s solo bowed bass, with an almost cello-sweet sound featured behind a few of her vocals that delicately enhanced them; Warren Luening on trumpet; Tony Compodonico on electronic keyboard; drummer Ramon Bonda; and percussionist Louis Conte; all playing this free sponsored event.
It was fun to be there early for the sound checks and setting-up with musician humor. Chamberlain asked for requests from the early audience for her vocal check, then responded to the instantaneous call for “Night And Day” to sing it as a pre-concert song, which was infinitely more satisfying than “Testing 1,2,3,4.” Chamberlain joked that she wanted to take the longer sound check to assure it was right, so she wouldn’t sound like Woody Woodpecker!
Her enthusiasm and good-spirited fun made a quick connection to the audience even before her swinging vocals began. Chamberlain’s joy with the music, and love for it really came through beautifully.
The Frank Sinatra Jazz Salute was quite an event, with flash bulbs going off, wine and cheese tasting for the large jovial crowd, people unexpectedly finding friends and familiar faces there, and some well-known musicians enjoying the evening from the audience. It somehow didn’t feel like Los Angeles ambiance, starting with our Red Line subway ride right to that location — how odd it was for Angelinos to not have to drive to get to good music!
It felt as though I had misplaced my car. Tunes performed were: “Almost Like Being In Love,” “It Happened In Monterey,” “Three Coins In The Fountain,” “Witchcraft,” “Mack The Knife,” “Candy,” “I Love You,” “All The Way,” “Brazil,” “Slow Boat To China,” “It Had To Be You,” “I’ll Close My Eyes” and “Nancy With The Laughing Face.”