Frank Sinatra ‘Ring-a-ding-ding’ / ‘I Remember Tommy Dorsey’ (Poll Winners) 4/5

Cool school vocals were never cooler than those of Frank Sinatra who could swing with the best of the crooners and both albums handily placed on one CD here illustrate precisely why. These date from the beginning of his newly created Reprise label and the earlier the better in terms of quality. There is a genuine freshness and vitality to the orchstrations with Johnny Mandel in control on the first recording while Sy Oliver takes over the reins on the second. The first is slightly stronger with a wide range of the great American songbook on offer. This includes a storming ‘Let’s fall in love’ with the lightest of string accompaniment, with an atmospheric ‘In the still of the night’ and a latinesque take on ‘The coffee song’. Irving Berlin, Gershwin, Kern and Cole Porter all get a look in. The second album is a tribute to trombonist and band leader Tommy Dorsey and the uptempo brassy intro to ‘Imagination’ typifies the sound. Perhaps not as compelling in its more mournful sound overall, ‘I remember’ would probably benefit from a few more swinging versions, especially of ‘Polka dots and moonbeams’ and ‘East of the sun (and west of the moon’). Fine musicianship nonetheless with flautist Bud Shank and vibist Emil Richards just two of the musical treats to be savoured.

Tim Stenhouse