Vail Jazz channels Frank Sinatra through the sultry vocals of Curtis Stigers | VailDaily.com

Vail Jazz channels Frank Sinatra through the sultry vocals of Curtis Stigers

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily

Revered by many as the most popular entertainer in history, Frank Sinatra kicked off his career as a big band singer in the 1930s with the Tommy Dorsey and Harry James bands. His hypnotizing voice first won its way into the world's hearts crooning classics like "New York, New York" and "I've Got You Under my Skin."

His unmistakable, swinging vocal style has become credo for these hits. Sinatra was quickly recognized as a master of song, or, among other nicknames, "Chairman of the Board," going solo in 1942 and breaking ground for a steady, nonstop string of solo artists that continues today.

Sinatra was the first to draw attention to the fact that the voice is a complex and specialized instrument (another of his nicknames after all is "The Voice"). He used it in a way that crossed musical genres, strategically creating a catalogue that not only dominated the musical charts ("Only the Lonely," "My Way" and "Strangers in the Night"), but also resonated with pop fans, big band purists and even classical music lovers.

Of course, the man could also act, and he won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his role in "From Here to Eternity" and landed leads and much acclaim in classics like "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "The Manchurian Candidate."

Studying Sinatra

Curtis Stigers is one of many successful contemporary artists who names Sinatra as a key inspiration behind his own musical career.

From his numerous appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "The Today Show" and landing everything from BBC Radio's Jazz Artist of the Year award to an Emmy nomination for his musical work on the hit TV show "Sons of Anarchy," Stigers has hypnotized millions with his own sultry vocals, songwriting and saxophone skills.

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While he cites a variety of artists as inspiration — from Ray Charles to Nat King Cole, Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan — he says "Frank wins out as my favorite."

"Sinatra's ability to tell a story with a song's lyrics is second to none," Stigers said. "He also had an incredible ability to swing and to move in and out of a song's time with ease and mastery. I've studied his records like textbooks, trying to absorb his technique and style and put it into my music."

True to Frank

Stigers' goal in his upcoming Vail performance is not to overtly imitate Sinatra, but to pay homage to The Chairman's talent with his own flare.

"The trick to singing Sinatra arrangements for me is to find a way to be true to what Frank did and still sing in my own voice," he said. "I want to celebrate Sinatra without doing an impression of him. These arrangements are so much fun to sing."

More than etching his one-of-a-kind sound and style onto the world, Sinatra's incomparable ability to continuously rise to the top — over a career that spanned a whopping six decades — resonates with other artists.

"Every time it looked like he was washed up as a pop star, he managed to evolve and grow, make a great album or series of albums, and suddenly he was back on top again," Stigers said. "Frank Sinatra is the best pop singer in the history of recorded music. He combined pop and jazz and show music to create a way of singing that has influenced several generations of singers."

A Tribute to Frank Sinatra

Curtis Stigers and the 17-piece Denver-based jazz orchestra H2 Big Band perform a special tribute to Frank Sinatra at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, at The Ritz Carlton Ballroom in Bachelor Gulch. The event is sold out. For information on upcoming Vail Jazz events, call 888-VAIL-JAM or visit vailjazz.org.