πŸ‘€ PROFILE: “NELSON RIDDLE”

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NELSON RIDDLE

On June 1, 1921, the man responsible for the quintessential Sinatra sound was born in Oradell, New Jersey: Nelson Riddle.

The son of an amateur musician who inspired his vocation, Nelson learned as a child to play the piano and trombone. Later he learned how to make musical arrangements from Bill Finegan, who had worked with Glenn Miller.

He was part of Tommy Dorsey‘s orchestra, first as a trombonist and later, an arranger. After World War II, he worked arranging for various musicians and, notably, for NBC Radio.
In 1949 he arranged Nat King Cole’s classic “Mona Lisa,” becoming an “accomplice” to the singer’s characteristic relaxed style.

Riddle’s crossed paths with Frank Sinatra in 1953, when the singer was signed by Capitol Records and a renewed sound was required to hit it big. And boy, did they both play it from then on! The unforgettable arrangement of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” may well be a summary and edict of the professional relationship of both musicians.

Riddle was the lead arranger for The Voice for more than a decade. His incredible versatility produced dazzling monuments to the joy of life (“Songs For Swinging Lovers“, “A Swingin Affair“) and haunting tributes to loneliness, the night and its specters (“Only the lonely“, “Moonlight Sinatra” ).

Riddle’s quote, backed by his success with Sinatra, truly reached the moon. The phrase “Arranged by Nelson Riddle” on an album cover was synonymous with success and quality.

But when Frank began his professional stage at Reprise Records, he again sought to give a twist to his sound and claimed figures such as Quincy Jones, Johnny Mandel, Neil Hefti and Don Costa. Although they would continue to work together sporadically in the studio and live, their last joint album was “Strangers In The Night“, in 1966. The estrangement hurt Nelson, and the animosity grew when Frank did not count on him for the triple LP “Trilogy” 1980, in which Frank’s other great arrangers worked: Billy May, Gordon Jenkins and Don Costa.

I don’t want to leave you with a bitter taste: before his untimely death in October 1985, Nelson enjoyed an unexpected professional resurgence thanks to his successful albums of standards with singer Linda Ronstadt. And he also smoothed things over with Frank, to the point of even planning a new album together. That last toast did not occur, but with the immortal titles of Nelson and Frank we can drink life every day. Cheers!

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