The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings combines two complete albums recorded by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. The first ten tracks make up the 1962 Sinatra-Basie: An Historic Musical First, featuring the Count Basie Band conducted by Neal Hefti. The second ten tracks were originally issued in 1964 as It Might as Well Be Swing, featuring the Count Basie Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones.
The songs are given effectively spry arrangements, with the band swinging forcefully behind Sinatra’s often playful phrasing. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” moves along on the strength of a propulsive brass section. Basie’s famed economy is fully displayed, especially in his effective fills that decorate “My Kind of Girl.” Hefti kept the tunes light on their feet for the ’62 release, working with a smaller ensemble than Jones would on the ’64 album. Packed with delights, Sinatra-Basie offers something special with each of its ten tracks.
The Quincy Jones arrangements actually lumber a bit from time to time. Jones’ work is surprisingly schmaltzy at times, lending a much different flavor to the It Might as Well Be Swing tracks. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” brings to mind Ray Charles’ classic version from two years earlier. I wouldn’t say Sinatra, with an unusually tentative interpretation, quite made the song his own. Much stronger is “The Best is Yet to Come,” with Sinatra’s customary swagger in all its glory. A melodramatic take on “The Good Life” is enlivened by a meaty tenor sax solo late in the track.
The CD booklet contains newly written essays and a reprinted interview with Quincy Jones, conducted in 1964. The vintage interview, in particular, offers fascinating insight into this collaboration between two legends. The restored and remastered audio is outstanding throughout the hour long disc. For fans of either or both of these artists, or of swinging big band music in general, this reissue is essential.