Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday was yesterday. For me and many others he is the pinnacle of phrasing. For all the bravado-posturing-political-tabloid public life, when he got to the mic with a band behind him, he was the absolute master.
I think for a singer at Sinatra’s level, time actually slows down. He never is in a hurry to finish a phrase, because it feels as if he has all the time in the world. Back-phrasing, the art of singing a melody later than the notated rhythm, is a bit of a daredevil’s art, and Sinatra was the ultimate daredevil.
My first year in Gold Company, we had an assignment to select and sing along with a Sinatra recording; he’s so lovely to listen to and it’s so hard to match his interpretation. It’s a tougher task than you think!
As I remember, I was the third GC member to sing along to a recording of him singing “I Get A Kick Out of You”: all different recordings with different phrasing. My favorite moment is at the end of the second A section, when he sings the line “that would bore me terrifically, too.” That night in GC, the fffff of “terrifically” got longer and longer; I got to sing his very longest version, from “Live in Australia With the Red Norvo Quintet.” I can’t find that recording, but here are three versions reflecting his different phrasing choices. Listen and enjoy the master at work.
“Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass” w/Neil Hefti (1962)
“Songs for Young Lovers” w/Nelson Riddle (1953)
“Magnavox Presents Frank Sinatra” Live (1973)