It was a meeting of two 20th-century musical giants: Frank Sinatra and Count Basie.
The collaboration, along with Basie’s orchestra, produced Sinatra at the Sands — an album many fans and critics call one of the best concert albums of all time. While performing at the Las Vegas Sands Hotel and Casino, Sinatra swings and croons his way through many of the songs he’s best known for, and the Basie band is absolutely cookin’ under the direction of 33-year-old Chicago native Quincy Jones.
Singer Paul Marinaro, who will recreate the album in a May 12 show with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, joined Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia as part of our summer-long series highlighting Chicago music and musicians.
What makes Sinatra’s music exceptional
Paul Marinaro: If you boil down Sinatra, you can’t remove the many different facets of his talent: He’s an incredible pop singer, he’s a crooner that was coming from the influences of the ’40s, and he’s highly jazz influenced. So he has the best of all these different attributes that boil down into this very unique artist and very unique voice. No one sounds like Sinatra.
Taking on a new kind of tribute
Marinaro: I’m a little nervous. This is different for me because what I think I’ve very consciously done as a vocalist, to try and make a mark and figure out where I belong in the grand scheme of things, is not to do Sinatra stuff — I’ve always shied away from that. I’ll do tribute nights, but they’re very much my own ideas about the songs and my own arrangements. To recreate a whole live album that’s so indelible in people’s minds is a little daunting.
Choosing Chicago for the recreation
Marinaro: I got into this so oddly. It was really just following a gut instinct. To say that I had a plan or knew what I was doing — absolutely not. I just kept going toward the fact that I wanted to sing, I knew the type of material I wanted to sing, and I knew the type of musicians that I wanted to work with. That was a real conscious decision to say, “I’m going to Chicago; this is where I want it to be.” I fell in love with the city.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was adapted for the web.