I think everyone has a fascination with Frank Sinatra. I was too young to see him in his prime – especially during the time of the resurgence of his career after his great role in “From Here to Eternity” but he was a presence in everyone’s cultural awareness even when I was growing up. (My late Uncle Joe Romano always wore a pin that said – “IT’S FRANK’S WORLD – we just live in it!”
Frank was the “Elvis” or “Beatles” of his generation – driving millions of teen age “bobby-sockers” to scream and swoon – as he began his career as a singer with Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band. Frank was more than a “band singer;” he wanted to learn from the musicians how to use his magnificent gift of a voice like a musician.
One of my earliest memories of Frank – aside from hearing my Dad say that “It Was a Very Good Year” was his favorite song – was seeing him in a movie with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine called “Some Came Running.” I don’t think it gained him any raves or notice, but I really liked the movie and was sympathetic to Sinatra’s character. It was one of a string of movies in his “down” period, when people wondered if he was fading.
And then came “From Here to Eternity.” Following that, more roles, such as Nathan Detroit in “Luck Be a Lady” began a new beginning of his singing career.
There was the added “cachet” of his private but very public life – the friendships and marriages with the “glitterati” of the time – Ava Gardner, the Rat Pack – Dino, Sammyand Peter Lawford – and his friendship with the Kennedy boys. He was an icon of that time, and a very well-polished and well-matured idol!
My wife Susan and I have been going to the Caffé Sorrento for as long as we’ve lived on Claflin Hill – going on 25 years now. On Saturdays, there has always been music – sometimes live and sometimes with a DJ and Karaoke. For over 10 years, we’ve been listening to a young man sing Sinatra, and from the first times I’d hear him, I was always astounded at the musicianship and art that he brought to his re-creations of Frank’s favorite hits. I’ve always told people, “close your eyes and you’ll think Frank Sinatra from 1963 had just walked in the room!”
That vocalist – Tommy Gatturna – is actually a union plumber by day and trade, and he’s never had a formal voice lesson in his life. He has always been fascinated by the work of Frank Sinatra, and studied and listened to all of his phrasing and nuances – he is pretty much a “self-taught” singer. I think he received some valuable tips, advice and support from Franco the D.J. – along-time fixture at the Sorrento and a former Berklee professor. Tommy has only gotten better as the years have gone by -- just like the last verse from “It Was a Very Good Year” – ”And now I think of my life as a vintage wine from fine old kegs.”
I always wanted to perform many of the classic Sinatra tunes from his early Sixties “Reprise” album – great songs with great orchestrations arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and Tommy and I would often talk about how we could do that. Several years ago, we presented a special “Gala Benefit Event” for Claflin Hill, and with Milford’s own legendary Jerry Seeco, brought the idea to reality. Jerry worked for months – listening to those old recordings and re-creating his own arrangements of those great songs and ballads for us to perform with Tommy.
As a matter of fact, I also met Jerry Seeco at the Caffé Sorrento, many years ago – it’s always been a hot spot and a “hang” for musicians and lovers of great music.
On April 30th, Tommy and Jerry join us at Claflin Hill Symphony for our Season Finale – “American Dreamscapes.” We’re looking forward to bringing these great musical charts back to life, presenting Tommy’s great artistry and heart to our CHSO Subscription audience, and paying tribute to a time in our past, when all seemed right with the world and the American Dream was thriving.