Frank Sinatra and Count Basie: Fly Me to the Moon

Written by Joseph Li

Pianist and Coach

In category: Song of the Day

Published November 6, 2019

“But you promised black artists, Joseph.” Yes, yes, I did. And as much as I love and adore Blue Eyes, he’s not the steam engine of this song – Count Basie is, along with his orchestra and the legendary Freddie Green. The arrangement by Quincy Jones is a match made in heaven for this meeting of greats.

Count Basie is Mr. Less-Is-More. Space was his solo, and the notes he did play during them feel to me more like a necessary evil than anything else – not that what he did play wasn’t brilliant, but I feel if he could have simply conveyed what he wanted by playing nothing at all, and just listening the entire time, he would have.

Freddie Green gets a separate mention because Freddie Green must always get a separate mention. So much wonderful commentary has been written on this man’s guitar playing, including a biography from his son, so I won’t regale you with all the different anecdotes and quotes and analyses here. I will only point out that he stretches the space between beats to the outermost limit in a way none before nor since have, and people recognize his playing from the first chord he plays.

Also, the trumpet players. THESE PLAYERS. I have no words to except “ecstasy-inducing lay-back-on-the-beatness” to describe the offbeat hits that start at 0:41 and the brief solo at 0:58. Those moments, and that solo especially, give me the Christmas morning giggles every single time.

The collaborations between Sinatra and Basie are what got me in to jazz – it started with their version of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” which I’m delighted that baritone Tobias Greenhalgh already shared with you.

author: Joseph Li

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Seattle native Joseph Li has played and coached for Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Arizona Opera, Opera Birmingham, and the Aspen Opera Theater Center. Last summer at Wolf Trap Opera he conducted Philip Glass’ chamber opera The Fall of the House of Usher in collaboration with the Halcyon Stage in Washington, D.C.; and performed in a two-piano recital alongside Steven Blier, Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song. Mr. Li joined the faculty of Baylor University’s School of Music in 2016. Recent collaborations include appearances with Minnesota Opera, Arizona Opera, Lone Star Lyric, MATCH Theater, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Hear Joseph Li perform with NYFOS on December 12 in Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do: Songs from Gay Harlem.


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