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Classical 101

Frank Sinatra Born 100-Years Ago, Saturday

Metronome magazine
Wikipedia- public domain
Frank Sinatra poses in the studio in November of 1950.

Thirty-five years ago I was selling records at the Barnes and Noble Store on Fifth Avenue at Rockefeller Center in New York. You'll have to ask your (grand) parents if the term 'record' is unknown to you. Yesterday a twenty- something asked me "what's a CD" and I'm still having chest pains.

This lowly sales clerk had an army of fancy customers, given the iconic location of the store. Among them, Vladimir Horowtiz would come in looking, not for his own recordings, but of the great Italian singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The baritone Mattita Battistini (1856-1928) was a his favorite. When I asked why, the great pianist stated simply "line."

It's not a great leap from the glory of Battistini, who strung notes together like equal sized pearls on a string, to Francis Albert Sinatra of Hoboken, New Jersey, whose centennial is celebrated this year. Sinatra's voice was as a slim baritone with an even scale. There were no holes in his voice. If you listen to enough of his recordings, both live recordings and the many studio sessions, he never shouts and he never cheats. Every note and every words is firmly in place. At the same time, Sinatra has the gift of 'rubato' -the sexy bending of he line just a tad, borrowing one note value from another.

Ring-a-ding-ding boys and girls, Sinatra had a good voice and was a great singer. There are great voices and good singers (I'll never tell).  Frank Sinatra, in a world filled with controversy and Ava Gardner, was always a great story teller with his voice. In the old words vs. music argument, Sinatra might put words first, but in performance he was that rare example: seamless. 

Keep spreading the news. Frank Sinatra would have turned 100 on December 12. Like Battistini and Horowitz, Sinatra's performances will be admired 100 years from now.