There is one particular album that I wouldn't want to live without and last night I was at home and I had a date with myself - so I opened up a bottle of red wine, reached for this album, put it on, sat down, opened the cover and for the first time - read the liner notes by Stan Cornyn. I can’t tell you how often I have listened to this album and I couldn’t believe that I never took the time to read these album notes. Because they will take you right there, back in time - right into the Copa Room of the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. They will take you as close as you can get to the stage and they will throw you right into this magic concert, that is known as „Sinatra at the Sands“ with Count Basie and his orchestra, arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones. I googled the man who wrote this incredible story about this night and I found out that Carl Stanley "Stan" Cornyn was an author and a record label executive for Warner Bros. Records. He died this year in May and he was known as the „King of the Liner Notes“. When he was 32, he won his first Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for Sinatra’s „Strangers in the Night“ and one more one year later for Sinatra at the Sands. Oh I sincerely hope vinyls will survive everything, not only because they simply sound wonderful but also because every single one comes with their own story, their own liner notes. And without further ado and right on time for his 100th Birthday let’s dive into Stan Cornyn’s magnificent words about the man of the hour Frank Sinatra - about (t)his time and (t)his night…so let’s celebrate - make a date night with Sinatra, a glass of red wine and yourself - read the liner notes, take a sip of your wine, close your eyes and travel back in time! Imagine yourself being right there in the crowded Copa Room and then turn your record player on…and you will hear Sinatra greeting you by saying „How did all these people get in my room?“
SINATRA AT THE SANDS
(released in 1966)
Arranged By, Conductor – Quincy Jones
Engineer – Lowell Frank
Featuring – Count Basie Orchestra
Liner Notes – Stan Cornyn
Producer – Sonny Burke
For a man so accustomed to appearing before the public, walking on stage this night at The Sands should have caused no more apprehension than you feel walking into your own living room. Yet Sinatra prepared for this appearance with deliberate ritual. He tends his voice with care. He takes a steam in the late afternoon. He lays off cigarettes. Before going on stage, he works out with his accompanist, Bill Miller, for a half hour. He slips into his tailored tux, still warm from a valet's iron. All during dinner, the audience-on-a-fling has been trying to catch the eye of the preoccupied staff, trying to flag down a captain. At the next table, a big man asks if a $10 bill would get him a better table. Scurrying by, the captain sighs "$10,000 couldn't get him a better seat." Or, as Dean Martin's fond of saying, "It's Frank's world. We're just lucky to be living in it." The room has that peculiar air about it that only successful clubs have: a combination of cigarette smoke, overheated air, smouldering dust, Lysol Clorox cleaned linen, even the silverware smells different from home silverware. "The crowd" jams every available seat. Two thousand knees with nowhere to go. As the hour nears nine, the dinner show customers are hustling down their filets. They've got to get them down. When those lights go out, they go so far out you're likely to hustle down your neighbor's pinky. Why do they go through all this, these normally sane?
• • • • •
The house lights make us disappear and a stage comes alive. A professionally you-asked-for-it voice booms out, "And now..." and onto the stage comes a solidly built, short and seldom-smiling man. So shortand squat it looks as if some monster thumb had been pressing him down toward the earth, gravity having at last done its dirtiest. But Basie fights back, with the aid of a carefully selected crew and the kind of rhythm section your mother used to call "solid!" Tiny Sonny Payne, Basie's drummer, perches up near the back of the bandstand, whirling his sticks and thrashing his cymbals and snares like the man who invented drums. Three lines of unbugable horn and reed experts gaze down at their well worn charts. They've been traveling with this music for decades. Ask for "One O'Clock Jump" and they'll bring out a sheet of music that looks like a hunk of Kleenex after a flu epidemic. But they do know how to do what they do. They play jazz, they play it together, and they play it better than most anybody on the planet. And that's one reason why "the crowd" is here tonight. For this is that moment when time is turned off and rhythm is turned on. Mr. Basie begins to conduct his orchestra from a seated position, facing his Steinway, hearing his men movin' without much visible motion. Mr. Cool, but you know he'd rather be doing this than anything else besides breathing. Men like he and his men don't go through the grinding one-nighters they've been through these past eons without some measure of dedication to something besides a buck. They do it because that's their way of breathing. Their music shows it, from "One O'Clock Jump" to "All of Me," instrumental that lift the Sands crowd up to a pitch of romping appreciation. The lousy drinks, the lousier luck at the tables, the pneumonia air condi¬tioning is all gone and forgot. It happens because Mr. Basie does not consider himself no prelude to nothin! He comes on. He's got ten quick minutes at the opening of the show that are all his and, by God, they're his. Forty years of music making jammed into ten prestigious minutes. During the applause, a dapper young man comes out on stage to adjust his music stand. He faces the Basie band. He's Quincy Jones, a high-talent young man who could be making a lot more money arranging his own albums or scoring films. But he chooses to be on stage at The Sands, for the same reason everyone else chooses to be there. Because an event is about to happen.
• • • • •
During the wailing of the Basie band, those jammed, perched, squoze to the sides of the room can see an anxious figure peering out at the band from the stage wings. Catching the mood of the crowd, Frank Sinatra. Looking not unlike a young man calculating his audience for his first talent night appearance. The Suave is dropped. The performer is getting himself up for one swinging night's sing. Again the amplified voice lets them all know. "And now... a Man and His Music!" The band ups to the occasion. And he walks on. Doesn't gallop on, doesn't wave or jump or hoopla. Just he walks on. His pocket handkerchief folded in there nice. A bit of a vest peeking out from under his tux coat. He pulls the hand mike out of the stand, glances up at the light booth where a thousand pounds of spotlight bear down on him. His shoulders hunch once, like they're absorbing the beat of Basie. He turns back to Quincy, Count & Co., smiling, extending the vamp. Go. Sonny Payne whacks his drums to stir up more groove. Then Sinatra turns back and sings. It looks effortless, the way he lazily loops the mike cable through his relaxed hands. But his face shows what he's singing. Eyes closed, head tilted, lips carefully phrasing and elocuting. And Sinatra runs through his best. The songs are Sinatra's, like "Come Fly" and "Crush" and "Fly Me to the Moon." Hip, up-tempo, wailing things. And then he'll change the pace on the audience. While his excitement-sated audience of people who've been everywhere are just happy to be there, while everyone is forgetting who's sitting in the next chair, or that down front there's a row of celebrities running from Roz Russell to Yul Brynner, from Mike Romanoff to Judy Garland, while all of this is being gone and forgot because the man on stage is more than will fill one's attention, while all of these sounds and sights and impressions are piling up against the pounding beat of Basie, Sinatra switches. Count Basie walks off stage. A thin, grey-haired man, who looks as if he hides under mushrooms to avoid the sun's rays, walks to the piano. This is Bill Miller, Sinatra's piano player. Sinatra turns to the audience and tells them he's going to sing a saloon song. And silently you can almost hear the perfumed ladies think "Yeah" and the close-shaved, shiny-cheeked men think "Yeah" and the waiters stop in the doorways and think "Yeah." And with just a piano behind him, Sinatra turns actor. The man whose broad's left him with some other guy and all of the loot. And he sings—and acts—his "Angel Eyes" and his "One for My Baby." And there is silence all about, for this audience is watching a man become that last lucked-out guy at the bar, the last one, with nowhere to go except sympathy city. Then more Sinatra-Basie, songs ranging from the subtle "Very Good Year" to the sizzle ("My Kind of Town"). And all the while, Quincy's at one side, setting the beat, Count's on the other making the beat, and Sinatra's center, demonstrating how wide and high the heart of a singing man can range. And after an almost dozen songs, Sinatra pauses. He pulls forward a stool and a music stand. He takes his tea. Cup and saucer ir. hand, he says his words. Ten, fifteen minutes worth of greeting. His status report on The Arts and The Sands. Commentary ranging from the autobiographical to world affairs, all delivered with the same casual emphasis that marks his singing style. The audience is shifting in its chairs, knowing it has only 90 minutes maybe with Sinatra, loving him talking to them, hoping he won't stop, and hoping he's going to sing all night that night. Then, with a napkin tap at the corners of his mouth, he retires the props. He's getting no younger, says he, and he'd best sing. And he does. More of the better: "Don't Worry 'Bout Me," "Where or When," the audience increasingly with it, knowing they've never heard anything better, amazed at the number of songs Sinatra's really associated with. Finally "My Kind of Town," starting deceptively with some talk about a nice city, then building choruses of mounting, modulating, upwards excitement.
And then he leaves. Walks right off that stage, just like he was finished. But does the crowd want that? They say no. They yell no and more, one more, ten more, hell a lifetime more, they've got nowhere to go, dammit they want more of him. Mr. Sinatra comes back and bows, not too low, but appreciatively. He makes "the dullest speech you'll ever have to listen to," thanking them, not for this one hour, but for a lifetime of applause. He reprises "My Kind of Town." He does it with authority. Nobody follows that kind of finish, not even Frank Sinatra. The waiters know it, and start hurriedly distributing saucers with the tabs. The houselights force back up. It's like dawn, and you don't turn the sun back. Still, they keep applauding till the feeling gets hopeless. By now, Sinatra's probably got a towel around his neck and his toes curled up on his dressing table. So, the audience files slowly out into the smoke-choked casino, meeting once more the hardluck din of reality around the half-empty crap tables. Those huddled masses outside look into the faces of the excited crowds, looking for signs that it was really sumpin! And what they see is mostly blinking eyes; women adjusting their coats to the onrushing night air, to the silent walk down the concrete paths to an unenchanted evening's leftovers; men sitting down at the blackjack tables, where the waxen dealers take time during a deal to look up at their faces and ask, "You see the show?" And the men answer, "Yeah. That Sinatra... he really puts on a show." Which may not be the best sum up in the world, but then you can't expect much more from someone who's just been through 90 minutes with the best singing man in town.
-by Stan Cornyn