8 Songs, 23 Minutes

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About George Siravo

During his multi-decade stint as a Columbia Records staff arranger and conductor, George Siravo collaborated with a host of singers including Tony Bennett, Doris Day, and Rosemary Clooney, but he remains best remembered for his work with Frank Sinatra on a pair of now-classic LPs that shepherded the crooner's transformation away from ballads to the swinging, uptempo approach upon which the Ol' Blue Eyes' legend rests. Born October 2, 1916 in Staten Island, New York, Siravo cut his teeth playing alto saxophone, clarinet, and flute in Harry Reser's Cliquot Club Eskimos -- stints in support of bandleaders including Charlie Barnet and Artie Shaw followed, and he also served in Glenn Miller's first orchestra. In 1938 Siravo signed on with Gene Krupa following the drummer's exit from the Benny Goodman ranks, but he soon tired of the road and caught on as a staff arranger with the smash radio program Your Hit Parade. Siravo first worked with Sinatra when he performed on Your Hit Parade, and when the singer was tapped to headline his own radio showcase, Frank Sinatra in Person, he kept Siravo on retainer -- he also worked as a freelance arranger, and in 1944 Sinatra's longtime musical director Axel Stordahl brought him aboard to work on what would prove one of the crooner's signature tunes, "Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)." After Siravo joined the Columbia staff in 1947, he was the arranger of choice when Sinatra and producer Mitch Miller began formulating an album of upbeat dance tunes. The project was scrapped, however, over concerns about the planned session's possible effect on Sinatra's touring and radio schedule, and Siravo's completed arrangements remain unrecorded.

Siravo and Sinatra finally reconnected for 1950s Swing and Dance with Frank Sinatra, a collection of rhythmic, swing-inspired songs without a ballad in sight; the sessions proved instrumental in pointing toward the new creative direction the singer would pursue during the remainder of his recording career. A follow-up date was planned, but according to legend Siravo convinced Sinatra to scrap the session in favor of boarding a plane to Africa to join then-girlfriend Ava Gardner during filming of the feature Mogambo. In the wake of Sinatra's career-revitalizing Oscar win for From Here to Eternity, he tapped Siravo to handle arranging duties on his first Capitol Records date, the celebrated Songs for Young Lovers, but while Siravo did most of the work, Capitol credited Nelson Riddle instead. (Riddle later apologized to Siravo, and hired him to handle orchestration on Sinatra's 1959 tour of Australia.) Siravo's partnership with Sinatra ended in 1961, when Sinatra called him in New York City to invite him to play in a golf tournament in Las Vegas. Siravo, already stretched thin by a packed studio schedule, reportedly told Sinatra, "You gotta be kidding -- I'm busy," to which Sinatra replied, "I'll send my jet." Siravo's response: "You're out of your mind." Siravo later claimed he never spoke to Sinatra again. He nevertheless remained a premier arranger, charting hits including Doris Day's "It's Magic" and Tony Bennett's "Who Can I Turn To?" He also worked on sessions headlined by Vic Damone, Connie Boswell, and Johnnie Ray. Siravo recorded only a handful of LPs under his own name, most notably Swinging Stereo in Studio A (issued in conjunction with RCA's famed Living Stereo series) and the chamber music-inspired Kapp date Polite Jazz. He died in Medford, OR on February 28, 2000. ~ Jason Ankeny

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