In the 1990’s I was in a line of work – managing a classical CD store, if you must know – in which I read about a hundred classical CD reviews a month. Every once in a while, a reviewer would let his hair down and drop in a short paean to a non-classical musician – a jazz player, an Indian musician, a rock star, a standards singer. (There was nothing daring about this, since everyone knew that Arthur Rubinstein had said that Art Tatum was the greatest living pianist and that “if Art Tatum took up classical music seriously, I’d quit my job the next day.”) Almost inevitably the jazz musician mentioned would be Ornette Coleman, the Indian musician, anyone but Ravi Shankar, the rock star, Bob Dylan, and the standards singer, Frank Sinatra.
I’m okay with Coleman; Ravi Shankar was too much of a show-off for me too (what about Ali Akbar Kahn or the Dagar Brothers?); Dylan is the Emperor, the Pope – not just one of the Kings of Rock and Roll; but Sinatra? I don’t get it. Serious critics praise his nuance, his sensitive embellishments, his sophisticated treatment of the lyrics, his tone, they even refer to him as “the voice of the century.” To me, Sinatra has all the subtlety and charm of a honking bird. Perhaps I suffer from an aural deficiency, a deformed cochlea – an extremely rare condition (obviously) that makes Frank Sinatra sound to the sufferer like Gladstone Duck and, thanks to a sympathetic neurological pathology, makes Sinatra seem to behave like Gladstone Duck, too.
Applying Occam’s razor to the problem, I have deduced the least complicated, therefore the most likely, reason that I took against Frank Sinatra: he reminded me of Matt Jordan.
Matt Jordan was Poughkeepsie High School’s Frank Sinatra wannabe, but I was such a snob that the more public adulation a celebrity had – and with Sinatra, it amounted to a sort of hysteria – the less I paid attention (I’m still like that, come to think of it), so I thought that Matt Jordan was just being himself, Matt Jordan – annoying, pushy, comically vain, achingly oblivious to mockery, superficial, childish, and a competent musician (meaning, he got all the notes right). I did not realize that Matt Jordan was imitating the way Sinatra talked, the way Sinatra walked, the way Sinatra sang, and played the trumpet like Sinatra would have played the trumpet if he had played the trumpet, kissing it, caressing it, like a microphone that he was trying to get to go to bed with him.
Matt’s ambitions grew from a trumpet solo at a Freshman talent show to the Matt Jordan Quartet to the Matt Jordan Big Band, the Matt Jordan All Star Jazz Band and the Matt Jordan Sinatra Tribute Band. Just a few years ago, I saw that Matt’s jazz band was performing at a municipal event down by the river.
When the Frank Sinatra phenomenon did make its way into my consciousness, sometime in the 1970’s, all I could think of was Matt Jordan. Which makes this into a science fiction story, like one of those tales in which a time traveler goes back to effect the past, but naturally effects the future as well, so the present that the time traveler returns to is changed, slightly off kilter. In your world, Frank Sinatra is unique; if you are from my neck of the woods and are familiar with Matt Jordan, Matt is just a Sinatra impersonator. In my world, Matt Jordan is the original, and Frank Sinatra just a pale imitation.