When it comes to the music of romantic longing, it’s hard to top the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim, especially when set to the languid bossa nova rhythms that he helped to pioneer. Add Frank Sinatra to the mix as a vocalist, and you have an unstoppable combination. In 1967, Sinatra and Jobim recorded the album Francis Albert Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim for Sinatra’s Reprise Records. The album reached #18 on the Billboard chart, and stayed on the chart for 28 weeks, quite an achievement at the height of the rock era.
Forty-four years later Concord Music Group, in cooperation with Frank Sinatra Enterprises, has released the 20-song Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings. The album includes the ten songs from the original album, seven songs from a later collaboration, and three songs from the session that have only seen the light of day previously as part of a box set. The whole thing has been remastered, and there are expanded liner notes from Stan Cornyn, longtime head of creative services at Warner/Reprise.
The Sinatra represented on the original album is hardly the swaggering Chairman of the Board of Rat Pack fame. This album reminds us that he had another title, “The Voice.” Somehow, Sinatra and Jobim succeeded in creating music that while relaxed and low-key in sound, was also extremely substantial from a musical point of view. Sinatra was not just a great singer. He was a consummate musician, and all of his skills are on display here. To get the bossa nova beat going, he let Jobim bring in the percussionists and arrangers. Sinatra hired producer Sonny Burke and string arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman for the original sessions. The ten tracks were recorded at Western Recorders in L.A. over the course of three nights, January 30 – February 1, 1967.
Two years later, Sinatra and Jobim returned to Western to record ten more songs for a follow-up album. This time Eumir Deodato replaced Ogerman as string arranger. After three more nights, the album, this time called simply Sinatra-Jobim, was ready for a planned release in the fall of 1969. Something went wrong. The latest collaboration had already been released on 8-track when Sinatra called Reprise and told them to kill the release. The remaining copies of that 8-track are highly sought after today by collectors. In 1971, seven of the tracks recorded at the 1969 sessions were released on an album called Sinatra & Company. The three remaining songs didn’t appear until the release of Sinatra: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings in 1998.
The original album,Francis Albert Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim, is widely thought to be one of the greatest achievements of Sinatra’s storied career. The additional ten tracks do nothing to dispel this notion. Not all of the songs are by Jobim, but classics like “The Girl From Impanema,” “Dindi,” “How Insensitive (Insensatez),” “Off Key (Desifinado),” and the clever “One Note Samba” are included, and even the American songbook selections are set to that bossa nova rhythm. Jobim adds piano, backing vocals, and beautifully supportive acoustic guitar parts.
If you are a Sinatra fan, a Jobim fan, or simply spellbound by the sway of Brazilian rhythms, this album is essential.