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One Track Mind: Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, "The Best is yet to Come" (1964)


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The crashing brilliance of “The Best Is Yet To Come," courtesy of Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie band, came to mind on this, the fifth anniversary of Something Else! Reviews. The site has evolved through a couple of iterations into the daily digest you see today and, in many ways, it feels like we're just getting started ...

As for Sinatra-Basie, well, our tune begins, as expected, with a lightly swinging piano aside. (Count Basie played with the kind of space you could guide battleships through.) His band then eases in behind, led by bassist George “Bumblebee" Catlett and just-right drummer Sonny Payne, while Sinatra (and, again, this is expected) approaches the lyric with a wink and a snap. As “Best is Yet to Come" builds to its middle, however, the Basie brass (with an assist from arranger Quincy Jones) creates a bold syncopation behind Sinatra, pushing him past his easy cool into a happy sway—and then into a grinding groove.

The trumpet group, led by Al Porcino and George Cohn with returning visitor Harry “Sweets" Edison, starts by reeling off a bright blast. Soon, an enthralling, bordello-rattling kind of back-and-forth is underway, almost like a game of oneupsmanship between a surprised Sinatra—who had slipped away for this recording while filming the movie “None But the Brave," even showing up for one rehearsal in an Army costume—and a randy Basie outfit that's ready to roll.

The '64 edition of this band, which also notably included saxophonist Frank Wess and guitarist Frank Green, had been together for a decade, and it plays with a fearsome thunder—all banging brass and careening reeds amidst a splashy rhythm. Basie himself (as per usual) is so deep, so aphoristic, in the mix that he becomes this unseen Svengali. “Wait until I draw you near!" Sinatra sings, almost bowled over, before the tune eases back into a sly horn signature to finish things.

“The Best Is Yet To Come," unfortunately, provides one of only a handful of outright successes on 1964's imaginatively named but nevertheless wildly uneven It Might As Well Be Swing, issued on Reprise. Of course, the high points are dizzyingly high—including the timeless “Fly Me To The Moon" (switched from a waltz to a 4/4) and a boozy take on “I Wanna Be Around." Elsewhere, though, the record is dragged down by a remarkable number of misses, considering the success of 1962's initial meeting between these two, the brilliant Neal Hefti-charted Sinatra-Basie. Both singer and pianist continued to indulge a growing penchant for obvious show tunes and now-dated contemporary songs, and a few actually feature a draggy string section which all but obviates the album title.

Even that, however, can't quite overshadow exuberant triumphs like this “Best is Yet to Come," originally composed with Ol' Blue Eyes in mind by Cy Coleman. The tune, no surprise, would become a concert staple.

Sinatra comes down hard on the word “best" in the last iteration of Coleman's best-is-yet-to-come chorus, clearly thrilled with the take—part of a trio of two- to three-hour sessions, all done live in front of the Basie band, that ultimately produced a 10-song release. Thing is, it's true: Just two years later, there came a terrific follow up in the form of “Sinatra at the Sands," a sizzling 1966 live date with Basie.

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This story appears courtesy of Something Else!.
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