A Time Treasured

This time of year brings back happy memories for me. It was November 20, 1985, when I first met Frankie Laine in person. I had taken a bus to San Diego and ended up spending seven hours with Frankie. It was magic.

“Old Man Jazz”

I guess it is especially grand for me at this particular time of year to peruse my vast Frankie Laine collection and rediscover special Laine recorded vocal gems. One of these songs was reintroduced to me recently by a fellow musician, and I gave it a new listen. While experiencing this song again after several years, my never-ending appreciation for this wonderful singer was again realized.

The song was recorded for Frankie’s final album Old Man Jazz and His Loves. I popped open my CD case, which, by the way, was autographed to me by Frankie, and played the song . . . “The Best of Love.”

This album was released in 2002 on the Score Records label, JFM International Productions, Inc.

I would like to relate some personal background regarding the song, “Old Man Jazz,” for which the album was titled. A couple of years before the release of the album, I helped to feature that very song on a local jazz radio station in Des Moines, Iowa.

I am the director of the Legislative Information Office at the Iowa State Capitol. I have been in this career for 20 years—12 years as the director.

Consequently, I have been friends with a few Iowa legislators over the years. One of these legislator friends was the late Representative John Connors. This is from my 2005 book Reaching for a Star:

John Connors hosted a jazz radio program with Ford Roberts on Des Moines radio station KRNT. In March of 2000, I asked him about the      possibility of producing a show featuring Frankie Laine as a guest. I felt sure I could obtain permission from Frankie to conduct a telephone interview for the program.

John was enthusiastic and set things up with the radio station. It so happened that Frankie’s recently recorded song “Old Man Jazz,” the same song he’d played for me in his music room in 1999, still hadn’t been released. I wrote to Frankie, asking whether I could feature that song on our radio production, and he agreed to send me a tape of the song.

I was jubilant because the song was an unreleased jazz work that featured Frankie Laine. The song would be a great selling point for the radio show. Frankie also agreed to allow us to interview him for the program. Yet again, Frankie delighted me. He’d sent me a copy of the song on his own cassette tape with the title written in his own hand. It was sort of a “junk” tape like the ones musicians keep around for future use. I truly had an original and unique collector’s item.

The studio engineer had taped all the segments for the radio program project in advance. I telephoned Frankie in his room just before his performance run in Palm Springs. He was trying his best to conserve his voice for his upcoming string of performances. At the time I spoke with him, rehearsals were about to begin for the gig. Frankie’s voice wasn’t holding out too well, and he was somewhat skeptical about completing the several-week engagement. Even his speaking voice sounded weak. I spoke with him briefly about “Old Man Jazz.” when my part was finished, John conversed with Frankie.

The telephone interview, combined with the debut of “Old Man Jazz” and a couple of older Laine recordings, completed the segment. The program aired on KRNT on April 1, 2000.

“The Best of Love”

As I listened to this beautiful song after not hearing it since its release, I was reminded of an art form that not many singers ever master—feeling the lyrics of a song so deeply and expressing them so intensely.

Frankie also had the ability to seek out and find talented new songwriters. And this song certainly validates this capacity. The song is written by Jack Segal, Ruth Freeley, and Jennifer Brown. The lyrics are relatable to all who have loved and lost. However, the clever “hook” in this song, which makes it so endearing to the heart, is that even though love has been lost, and it hurts, that love was the best and having had this love is wonderful.

What a great mellow and melancholy jazz song this is! Frankie’s delivery of the lyrics and his vocals are unsurpassed. He brings to life the feelings the writers meant this song to offer listeners. A connection will be made. And, although the song is sad, the feeling one comes away with after hearing it is one of a beautiful life enhancing experience as a result of this love.

One of my favorite portions of the song is the bridge:

“. . . Never dreamed you’d take over my life, at least not at the start. But then you fell asleep in my arms and woke up in my heart.”

Love gives us all a reason to live life to the fullest. It not only defines who we are, but also what we become. We all strive to make our love for a special person last. We want to be able to ensure that the special moment love was first realized, as revealed in the bridge of this song, happens as a constant for us and keeps us in love. Within this wonderful piece of musical art, Frankie and the lyric writers have truly reminded us just how special love is.