Singer, songwriter and saxophonist Curtis Stigers has been bringing those worlds together in his own music for the last three decades (along with touches of nearly every other genre one could call to mind), which makes him an ideal candidate to reinterpret Ol’ Blue Eyes’ cherished repertoire for modern ears. On his twelfth album and ninth release for Concord Records, One More for the Road, Stigers captures the rare alchemy of hipness, elegance, playfulness and feeling that made Sinatra’s renditions of these songs immortal while adding his own unique twist.
On One More for the Road, Stigers finds his own version of that elusive Sinatra-Basie chemistry with the virtuosic and ebulliently swinging musicians of the Danish Radio Big Band. Recorded in the band’s headquarters, the acoustic marvel that is the DR Koncerthuset in Copenhagen, the bristling live recording features the DRBB playing vibrant takes based on the original Nelson Riddle and Billy May arrangements, which can’t help but spark inspired vocal performances from Stigers.
Singing in front of a great band executing flawless reinvigorations of those arrangements "is just extraordinary,” Stigers says. "It’s like sex. I don’t think there’s a more swinging band in the history of music than the Count Basie Orchestra, and then you get these classically trained Danish musicians who have really studied this stuff and played together so much, it makes it easy to fit into that and sing these amazing songs. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had, and I think it shows on the record.”
One More for the Road isn’t meant to be a recreation of Sinatra at the Sands, but uses that classic album as a launching pad for a full-blooded set of Sinatra’s best-loved tunes. Eight of the new album’s ten songs, recorded during Stigers’ now-annual January concerts in Copenhagen, come from that 1966 concert in the Sands’ Copa Room, but the setlist is also supplemented by Stigers’ takes on "Summer Wind” and "They Can't Take That Away From Me.”
Just as the album’s track listing isn’t a carbon copy of its inspiration, Stigers was careful to avoid being a slavish imitation of Sinatra, making each song its own while retaining the essence of the Chairman’s unforgettable interpretations. "Singing these songs live is a lot of fun,” Stigers says, "but going into the recording I had to figure out how to make this not be just the most fun karaoke that you can possibly do with an incredible band. I seldom sing a song the same way twice, so I made the songs my own as much as I could. I try not to sing like Sinatra, but there’s no way that some Sinatra doesn't get in there. There are certain phrasings that he used that work so well with the arrangements that I couldn’t not use them. It’s a fine line to walk, but as a jazz singer and as a recording artist, I’ve always tried to do everything different every time.”