The late Frankie Laine is most remembered as a popular singer of the post-World War II period into the 1960s, though he was a talented lyricist who contributed a number of memorable songs, a few of which have become standards. Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan conceived this tribute several years prior to Laine's death in early 2007, though recording didn't take place until a year after the singer's passing. Smulyan -- whose melodic baritone makes him the logical heir to Gerry Mulligan -- recruited the gifted arranger Mark Masters and some of the top instrumentalists in greater New York City (including trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, trombonist John Fedchock, alto saxophonist Dick Oatts, multi-reed player Scott Robinson, and French horn player John Clark). "High Noon," from the movie soundtrack penned by Dimitri Tiomkin, was a vocal hit for Laine, though Masters' imaginative chart expands considerably on this relatively simple composition, filled with terrific solos and colorful backgrounds, highlighted by the leader's baritone and Robinson's bass clarinet. The bluesy "Torchin'" is an obscure work with music by Laine and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, in which a bit of playfulness is incorporated into its somber atmosphere. The moody "A Man Ain't Supposed to Cry" evokes the emotion of Joe Williams' vocal version through Smulyan's magical baritone sax. Several of Laine's collaborations with composer Carl Fischer are included, highlighted by the standard "We'll Be Together Again," a brilliant, understated duet by Smulyan and pianist Pete Malinverni.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden