BBC Big Band Sinatra Centenary Concert featuring Curtis Stigers, Jacqui Dankworth, Todd Gordon
For once a show headline that pretty much sums everything up for the night. For anyone just missing the point even slightly, 100 years ago this year on December 12th 1915 Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA, and by the time of his death on May 14th 1998, the world had been left with one of the greatest musical legacies of the 20th century.
This absolutely packed out show tonight at The Festival Theatre on the opening night of the 2015 Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival is simply a musical tribute to the music and legend of Frank Sinatra.
Opening the show tonight with the BBC Big Band Orchestra behind him was Edinburgh’s own Todd Gordon. I have seen Todd Gordon on stage a few times now, and tonight was Todd at the best I have seen him to date. Todd is absolutely NOT a Frank Sinatra tribute act, but a singer with an absolute lifelong love of Frank Sinatra and that laid back style of presenting a song, and he does it wonderfully. The bigger the band behind him, the better Todd seems to get. The higher the standard of performer around him, the more he raises his performance level to match them. With the BBC Big Band, Jacqui Dankworth, and Curtis Stigers on stage, he had everything to bring out a great performance in him and it did.
Todd Gordon’s set had some classic Frank Sinatra songs in it including “It Was A Very Good Year” and his closing interpretation of “New York, New York”.
Jacqui Dankworth also gave us some classic interpretations of some famous songs that displayed not only what a wide vocal range she has, but also how someone who instinctively understands phrasing and timing can use it to its best. Stage is so obviously a second home to Jacqui Dankworth and singling out any of her songs tonight above any others would just be unfair as each had its own unique style and arrangement.
Todd and Jacqui also reprised for this show a few of their classic duets from the shows that they have been doing of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald songs. Try to catch more of these duets too if you can somewhere.
Set two tonight was pretty much all Curtis Stigers and he had some great songs to showcase that voice of his with. Absolute classics such as “Fly Me To The Moon”, “The Summer Wind” and “One For My Baby”.
We also had a great little duet with Todd and Curtis which highlighted the contrasting styles between the two well. The one thing both have in common though is that lovely gentle approach with an audience.
Todd, Jacqui and Curtis closed the show with a lovely little arrangement of “The Lady is A Tramp”.
Everything just seemed to fall into place for everyone on stage tonight and in a show like this, that is rare as there are usually those odd “fill in” moments somewhere.
I have to admit in writing this review that a few years ago, I probably would never have gone to this show as I had never really appreciated this style of music or Frank Sinatra as a performer. It was watching Todd Gordon perform at The Jazz Festival last year and seeing some of these songs performed live for the first time that I suddenly realised just what I had been missing. Todd Gordon is not only a singer of these songs but a great guide to them and his introduction to this music for me has made me realise just how great songwriters like George Gershwin and lyricists like Johnny Mercer were, or just how important the arrangement of a song can be.
Of course, everyone on stage and in the audience was in no doubt tonight who the real star of the show was, and that is still Frank Sinatra. It was not only the voice of Frank Sinatra that made him the star he became, but that ability to take a song and interpret it in a way that very few other singers ever came close to (some will say no one ever did). The songs that Frank Sinatra sang were mostly about life itself and to really understand these songs you have to have lived enough to experience what these songs are saying and the emotions they are conveying. Perhaps this is why I missed them all earlier in my life.
If you enjoyed listening to Todd Gordon tonight, or sadly could not get a ticket to tonight’s show, then you have plenty of opportunity to catch up with him in The Festival Fringe as he is doing a mammoth 28 date run at The Assembly Rooms. Details are at the link below.
If you want to find out a little bit more about everyone tonight, then visit their websites
Review by Tom King