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Frank Sinatra with The Count Basie Orchestra - Sinatra at The Sands Print E-mail
Monday, 08 September 2003

Frank Sinatra With The Count Basie Orchestra

This title not currently available on Amazon.
Sinatra At The Sands
format: DVD-Audio
label: Reprise Records
release year: 2003
performance: 9
sound 7.5
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

Image This new DVD-Audio title captures the incomparable Frank Sinatra live at the legendary Copa Room at The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, circa 1966. The performance highlights one of the 20th century’s greatest performers literally at the peak of his popularity and powered by Count Basie’s orchestra under the direction and arrangement of a young Quincy Jones. Armed with crooner classics, saloon songs and hits from that time in history, Sinatra thrills the audience with his deadly combination of stellar vocals, exciting orchestration and juiced-up one-liners.

This DVD-Audio disc will play in every DVD player, but is best in a DVD-Audio player being played back over a six-speaker surround sound system. Elliot Mazer, the mixing engineer on the DVD-Audio project, spent tremendous effort to make the recording sound fantastic by 2004 standards. His labors included going back to the original four-track master to create the 5.1 surround sound mix. The music and ambience of the recording feels real. In my system, you can barely hear anything other than the occasional clink of a couple of cubes in a drink glass. Musically, you are not going to hear bombastic horns coming from the rear channels, but what you will hear is a smooth, beautiful recording of a fantastic performance.

Sinatra’s set is very well organized. He manages the tempo of the songs he plays in ways that we rarely see live or even hear on a record these days. The result is that Sinatra ends up with the audience eating out of his hand. He rolls through his set with spontaneity as well as pre-written one-liners – both of which gets laugh and applause. Some of the performance highlights include “Fly Me To The Moon,” where the Basie orchestra swings something fierce with blasts of resolute horns and deep, walking bass lines. When Sinatra is singing, the band offers up just the right level of rich musical layering. As the tune progresses, Jones allows the band to build the intensity. At the very end of the track, Sinatra concludes the song with an abrupt “I… love……. YOU!” and the band segues into a full-force outro called “One O’clock Jump” that is outright happening.

I tend to listen to my music at pretty high levels, but I found this DVD-Audio to specifically benefit from a little extra horsepower for your beloved 5.1 speakers. On tunes like “Luck Be A Lady Tonight,” the entire sound field opens up and beams with style. Sinatra sounds velvety smooth yet dynamic. The band rips behind the Chairman of the Board with fantastic details that even an audiophile could get off on, but make no mistake – this record is no audiophile recording. It is way too cool for that classification. After the second verse, the Basie orchestra hits some cymbals that decay beautifully in ways that you can only appreciate with the higher resolution of DVD-Audio.

Sinatra plays the ballads with touch and feeling, including the saloon song “One For My Baby (and One for the Road),” as well as the “The September of My Years.” While listening to the entire disc, these tracks sounded impressive, though the more upbeat tracks like “Get Me To The Church On Time” were more fun. Sinatra’s repertoire at this point in his career was pretty deep and he covers some very well-known songs like “Come Fly With Me,” “I’ve Got a Crush On You,” “ I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “It Was a Very Good Year” and “Angel Eyes.”

There are times when this record simply beams with musical and audio excitement. It took me a few times through and some level adjustments (especially turning up the rear speakers) to make the recording do what I wanted it to do but when I got it right, it sounded wonderful: smooth, open, rich and with strong bass. Not bad for a four-track recording from 1966. The performance is both historically important and fully entertaining. This DVD-Audio disc is the kind of record that you can really sink your teeth – or should I say your ears – into. It takes a number of spins to achieve full appreciation of this album, but when you have, you will be very glad you made the investment.

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