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Jazz : Sinatra Jr. Excels With Childers

Maybe if his father had decided on a different name, maybe if the old man hadn’t become one of the megastars of pop music--maybe then Frank Sinatra Jr. might have been given more careful consideration for the splendid performer he is.

Opening a two-nighter at Lunaria on Friday night, Sinatra sang with the Buddy Childers quintet in a style whose timbre and phrasing recalled the paternal pipes, but whose inflections and rhythms sounded very much like fine jazz singing.

Loose, relaxed, interacting with the musicians, turning the spotlight over to flugelhorn player Childers and tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson for extended solos, Sinatra was very much his own man, working comfortably within the context of the ensemble. On the opening “More” and “You and the Night and the Music,” his warm, easy-going reading was energized by brisk, offbeat accenting that countered--with words--the musicians’ improvised lines.

Sinatra acknowledged the season with Jim Webb’s lovely, and too-rarely heard, “Whatever Happened to Christmas.” And he peaked with an Ellington medley, opening with a velvet-smooth soar through “Prelude to a Kiss,” blending with the horns on “Mood Indigo” and leading a shout chorus finale on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

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It was an impressive performance by an artist who deserves wider hearing. Sinatra spends most of his time, these days, conducting the orchestra for his father’s appearances. That’s a gig most musicians would be delighted to have. But one can only hope, after hearing his current work, that Sinatra will consider devoting a bit less time to his filial duties and a bit more time exploring his own considerable potential.


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