In 1964, when Getz and Gilberto ignited the bossa-nova craze across America, vocalists of all stripes—from Perry Como to Mel Tormé to Sarah Vaughan—quickly went Latin. Sinatra was a tad late to the party, teaming with bossa’s global exemplar for 1967’s Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim. Speculation was that Sinatra, then at the height of his ring-a-ding-ding bravado, was ill suited to such delicate material.
In fact, he delivered what is arguably his finest album of the era, his exquisitely crafted readings shot through with soft sapience. He and Jobim reunited in ’69, but Sinatra was dissatisfied with his performances (most surfaced on 1971’s Sinatra & Company).
Now, a half-century on, John Pizzarelli revisits the Sinatra-Jobim oeuvre with sublimely honorific results. With his slight, sensitive voice, Pizzarelli is an ideal fit for such downy Jobim gems as “Meditation,” “Corcovado,” “Dindi,” “Bonita” and “If You Never Come to Me.” While duties were evenly split across the 1967-69 sessions—Sinatra’s vocals, Jobim’s guitar artistry (and occasional vocals)—Pizzarelli fills both roles. He does, however, feature his own Jobim, grandson Daniel, who adds dusky vocals on four tracks and subs for pianist Helio Alves on one.
Among the 11 tracks are four from beyond the Sinatra-Jobim playlist: Jobim’s windswept “Two Kites,” Michael Frank’s lilting tribute, “Antonio’s Song,” and two originals. Writing with his wife, Jessica Molaskey, Pizzarelli’s “She’s So Sensitive” seems the antecedent to Jobim’s Sinatra-covered “Insensatez,” while their bilingual “Canto Casual” provides a fittingly sunny coda.