Frank Sinatra / Duke Ellington

Francis A. & Edward K.

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The much-anticipated collaboration between Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington, Francis A. & Edward K., didn't quite match its high expectations. At the time of recording, the Ellington band was no longer at its peak, and Sinatra was concentrating on contemporary pop material, not standards. It was decided that the record would be a mixture of standards and new material; as it happened, only one Ellington number, "I Like the Sunrise," was included. Due to a mild cold, Sinatra was not at his best during the sessions, and his performance is consequently uneven on the record, varying between robust, expressive performances and thin singing. Similarly, Ellington and his band are hot and cold, occasionally turning in inspired performances and just as frequently walking through the numbers. But that doesn't mean there is nothing to recommend on Francis A. & Edward K. On the contrary, the best moments on the album fulfill all of the duo's promise. All eight songs are slow numbers, which brings out Sinatra's romantic side. "Indian Summer" is a particular standout, with a sensual vocal and a breathtaking solo from saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Much of the material on the album doesn't gel quite as well, but devoted Sinatra and Ellington fans will find enough to treasure on the record to make it a worthwhile listen.

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