In February, a new Sammy Davis, Jr. CD was released by Spanish jazz re-issue label Fresh Sound Records. Titled A Lot Of Livin’ To Do, it is available on Amazon and other online retailers.

While none of the individual songs on the CD are previously unreleased, this is no ordinary compilation of Sammy’s most famous songs. Rather, the album features the best output from Sammy’s collaboration with legendary ‘West Coast jazz’ arranger Marty Paich. Warner Music executive Gregg Geller had a similar idea back in 1994, and Warner released a compilation album titled The Wham of Sam. It featured 12 tunes with the Davis/Paich partnership – 11 of which also appear on this new CD – whereas this release incorporates an additional 11 cuts, plus an excerpt from Sammy’s full-length recording with Paich of Mel Tormé’s California Suite (“They Go To San Diego”).

Sammy Davis, Jr.’s work with Paich, all of which was recorded between 1961 and 1963, is particularly noteworthy as it is one of the few times when Sammy – known primarily as an entertainer, Mr. Las Vegas, a pop singer – fully embraced jazz. The music critic and doyen of the Great American Songbook Will Friedwald wrote in the liner notes to Warner’s The Wham of Sam compilation:

No less than Sinatra, with his swing-band upbringing, Davis performs with a very solid jazz foundation – both his singing and dancing reveal very obvious rhythmic roots. While a great many of the arrangements written for Sinatra by Nelson Riddle, Johnny Mandel and Neil Hefti dip their toes in the wellspring of modern jazz, none quite ever dive in. Davis, on the other hand, herewith takes the plunge.

Davis had been captivated by the unique sound of the Bethlehem recordings of Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-Tette, and when he moved from Decca to Reprise in 1961, requested specifically to work with Paich. However, Reprise chose to place the jazziest Davis/Paich efforts onto various LPs featuring more conventional orchestra and string recordings, preferring Davis’s image as a pop entertainer over that of a bone fide jazz singer.

The Fresh Sound Record release exists in an ethical netherworld. Produced in Spain, these recordings are not officially licensed by the Sammy Davis, Jr. estate, but are certainly legal due to the expiry of copyright in the EU after 50 years. However, unlike most European labels which produce crappy vinyl transfers or simply copy from other commercial CDs and release content in bare-bones packages, owner Jordi Pujol defends Fresh Sound Records as being different. The label has a good reputation in the jazz world and has clearly put time and effort into this package – there are eight pages of extensive new liner notes, recording dates with personnel, and, despite not having access to the masters, excellent sound.

A Lot Of Livin’ To Do: Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings & Swings With The Marty Paich Dek-Tette & Orchestra

Artist: Sammy Davis, Jr.
Format: CD    Label: Fresh Sound Records
Cat. Num.:
FSR-922    Rel. Year: 2017

 

Track Time Record Date Song
02:44 18/7/1961 A Lot Of Livin’ To Do
02:53 7/2/1961 Can’t We Be Friends?
02:23 26/6/1962 Someone Nice Like You
03:01 15/1/1962 Too Close For Comfort
02:48 7/2/1961 Soon
02:37 14/11/1962 Come On Strong
03:00 18/7/1961 Make Someone Happy
02:22 6/7/1961 Gonna Build A Mountain
04:14 7/2/1961 Blame It On My Youth
02:26 15/1/1962 Falling In Love With Love
02:47 7/2/1961 Bye Bye Blackbird
02:09 26/6/1962 Once In A Lifetime
03:31 15/1/1962 My Romance
03:01 18/7/1961 Two Ladies In De Shade Of De Banana Tree
02:49 7/2/1961 Let There Be Love
02:09 19/7/1961 Guys And Dolls
02:57 14/11/1962 Song from “Two For The See-Saw” (A Second Chance)
02:37 19/7/1961 There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame
02:59 7/2/1961 Thou Swell
02:49 19/7/1961 Something’s Coming
02:42 18/7/1961 That Great Come-And-Get-It Day
02:32 22/11/1963 They Go To San Diego
04:17 19/7/1961 The Party’s Over