For vocalist Todd Gordon, August is booked out with his Sinatra: 100 Years show on the Edinburgh Fringe. He explained the background to Sebastian:
LondonJazz News: How far back does your association with these songs go? Do you remember “discovering” Sinatra?
Todd Gordon: More years than I care to remember. I was 11 years old when my mother commandeered the record player and put on one of two Sinatra albums she owned, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! As an avid Beatles fan, I thought this was old fogey music, then I began to question, when did he breathe? Then I got hooked on the Nelson Riddle arrangements, and another Sinatra addict was born!
LJN: Is Assembly Rooms a nice room? What kind of vibe will you be trying to create?
TG: This is a very intimate project. I remember reading about Sinatra when he was performing at The Olympia in Paris. After the show he and his entourage were meandering through the streets and entered a small, empty basement bar. There was a piano and Sinatra started to sing. The Patron rushed into the street exclaiming “Come, hear Frank Sinatra sing!” After a while he came back inside somewhat crestfallen declaring no one would believe him! I always thought that a magical tale and we’re aiming for that same intimate and spontaneous atmosphere. For this show I’ll be accomplished by my talented pianist/MD, David Patrick, and former BBC Young Scottish Jazz Musician winner, Andrew Robb on bass.
LJN:How many songs are there,and do they stay the same in every show?
TG: There are almost two dozen songs that I’ve selected including quite a few of his classic big hitters alongside some real gems. We’ve created a few medleys such as the Cole Porter one which features I’ve Got You Under My Skin, I Concentrate On You, Night and Day, I Get a Kick Out of You and You’re Sensational (which he sang to Grace Kelly in the High Society movie).
LJN: How long is the show? Is there an interval?
TG: It’s the usual Edinburgh Festival Fringe length of one hour with no interval.
LJN: Have you done the show before / how was it received?
TG: Yes, we ran quite a lot if the show at a recent concert I did at the JW3 venue in Finchley Road a couple of weeks ago and we got a great reaction from the audience and a very nice review too.
LJN: And are you a serial fringer?
TG: I think this is my fifth Fringe show. However, I’ve never done a show every night for the full duration before; it’s either been a night or two at The Queens Hall or shorter runs over weekends.
LJN: Is there a story-line runing through the show
TG: Not a storyline as such. It is structured – it has to be when there’s only 60 minutes! – but there is a narrative with anecdotes and informal chat. One thing is for sure: there will be no tipped Fedora, no raincoat over the shoulder and no phoney American accent! It’s my homage to the wonderful music he popularised rather than a Rat Pack style impersonation. And the dialogue will be conversational rather than a recreation of the ’50s-style banter than can be quite inappropriate these days.
LJN: Are there songs of Sinatra’s you avoid? Where do you draw the line?
TG: Sinatra had near flawless judgement when it came to selecting a song and, particularly, a lyric. I say near flawless as I often think about the Floyd Huddleston number he recorded on one of his mid-1970s comeback albums. It’s called I’m Gonna Make It All the Way and contains the line, “your love has lost its splendour, my pride went out the winda”… Not even Frank could make that sound classy!
LJN: Will there be a chance for the audience to singalong?
TG: There might be! Some audiences can be quite reserved and that’s fine as long as they’re enjoying the music. But, with such a small group, it could be difficult to perform, say, New York, New York. A 60-piece orchestra does make a considerable contribution. But if an audience is in party/singalong mood, I reckon we’ll go for it with their help!
LJN: And you have something else coming up, with Curtis Stigers?
TG: Yes, on Friday 17 July. It’s a special opening concert in the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival marking Sinatra’s centenary with the BBC Big Band, Curtis and also the wonderful Jacqui Dankworth. I’ve been involved in promoting concerts with Curtis but we’ve never shared a stage before so it’s something I’m very much looking forward to.
“Sinatra: 100 Years” runs at Assembly Rooms (Fringe Venue 20, 54 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2LR) from August 6-30, 2015 (excluding August 17) at 9pm (doors at 8.50pm)