Toku Takes Frank (Music Thoughts: Dear Mr. Sinatra, Toku)

41pRiPbs2IL._SX355_Frank Sinatra Jr. passed away last week, and that made me want to listen to “Dear Mr. Sinatra,” by Toku.  I really cannot find much information on the internet about Toku, except for the basics. He is a jazz artist based in Tokyo, and plays the fugel horn. I always have a hard-on for jazz instrumentalists who sings. There’s always something about them that knows how to interpret a lyric. I think it’s because they already have the musicality in them, and they take an extra effort in lyric interpretation. The problem sometimes with these Sinatra albums is that they have a contrived sense of tribute. Sinatra recorded hundreds of songs but a lot of them barely scratch that surface – always going for the obvious choices. Toku is one of those artists – only the obvious choices here: “For Once In My Life,” “Strangers In The Night,” “The Good Life.” I was already suppressing a yawn. But, I was proved wrong. He infuses a lto of something new, something modern, something hip with these songs, while still preserving that Ol-Blue-Eyes spirit. The basic arrangements – Nelson Riddle et al – are there, but even ‘My Way’ (I go on record in saying that I hate that song with the rays of a thousand suns) sounds almost easy to swallow by having him insert a rap interlude. It’s not as bad as it sounds, idea-wise. And I had to stop in my tracks when I heard “I’m A Fool To Want You,” done as a duet with R & B singer N’dea Davenport. They capture the longing, the craziness of desperately falling in love with someone, right there in that track. It brought a tear to my eye, literally. And I didn’t even mind the scatting in ‘Fly Me To TheMoon.’  Each track had something fresh in it, and I think it stems from him working with younger artists. I think a lot of younger people already know Sinatra, but I hope they dig deeper to what Sinatra gave us beyond his Greatest Hits. Toku can show them the way.

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