Frank Sinatra + Count Basie, “The Best is Yet To Come” from Ultimate Sinatra (2015)

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Universal Music is celebrating the Frank Sinatra centennial with a first-ever collection that combines every phase of his stirring career, from Columbia to Capitol to Reprise. Released this week, Ultimate Sinatra takes 100 opportunities to remember a life in song, offering hundreds more insights.

Today, we’re exploring one of the four-CD deluxe set’s standout 1960s-era tracks, as Frank Sinatra — having left Capitol to co-found his own label, Reprise — begins a series of intriguing collaborations with the likes of Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Count Basie. Ultimate Sinatra cherry picks one of the most exciting of Basie in-studio tunes, “The Best is Yet to Come.” Everything is in place for this gem, and then it surprises you.

The track 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 Frank 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 Frank 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.

Listen as Frank 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 1964 release called It Might as Well be Swing. 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.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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