Frank Sinatra, In The Wee Small Hours

Will Friedwald

By Will Friedwald

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

In The Wee Small Hours

Frank Sinatra
A bona fide American classic

This was actually Sinatra's third original album for Capitol (following Songs for Young Lovers in 1953 and Swing Easy in 1954), but it was the first masterpiece conceived in the new, 12-inch long-playing album format. After starting with a new (and soon-to-be iconic) song by friend Dave Mann, Sinatra and partner Nelson Riddle dove into 15 standards, each exploring a different kind of blue: from the inquisitive, probing "What is This Thing Called Love" to the almost whimsical "Dancing on the Ceiling." On four tracks (including the cyclical "I'll Be Around"), Riddle backs Sinatra with only the intimate accompaniment of a four-piece rhythm section (featuring his brilliant longtime pianist Bill Miller); by contrast, "Last Night When We Were Young" is positively operatic in its grandeur. If you were only going to own one Sinatra album, this would be it. With Sinatra, it's about the details and the big picture at the same time. No less significant than the key works of Ernest Hemingway or Edward Hopper, In The Wee Small Hours is an American classic.