Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Frank Sinatra With the Red Norvo Quintet

  • Live in Australia, 1959 [Blue Note, 1997] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Live in Australia, 1959 [Blue Note, 1997]
With an official live corpus comprising little beyond Vegas dates, statuesque concert stuff, and an insensate 1962 small-group session, this cleanly remastered version of a tape legendary among the bootleggers he's served so well belongs in a canon that's already as outsized as his FBI file. True, it does sample his sense of humor, and although the economy of crack bandleader Norvo offers relief from his usual arrangers, even the greatest vibes players do inevitably play the vibraphone. Nevertheless, there's no authorized Sinatra like this. Its light, relaxed, groove-powered phrasing may not mean as much as the endless timbral subtlety of his studio work, but it gives up the fun his patter misses, as well as the spontaneous musicality those who think him "merely" pop claim isn't there. In the ebullient "Night and Day" that tops things off, he even risks undermining the lyric. He knows no more heinous sin, and the transgression becomes him. A-