Known for single-handedly saving Frank Sinatra's career in the mid-1950s with his stunning orchestral arrangements, Riddle's intelligent, seductive ...Show synopsisKnown for single-handedly saving Frank Sinatra's career in the mid-1950s with his stunning orchestral arrangements, Riddle's intelligent, seductive style also attracted such singers as Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. A friend of Riddle's, presents the musical side of Riddle as well as the private.Hide synopsis
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This biography of Nelson Riddle, arguably the most brilliant arranger of swing in the history of American music, is obviously well researched but unless you are an aficionado of jazz and swing, the lists of names might get in the way of complete enjoyment of this book. We are talking here of each member of each orchestra, band, recording etc. Perhaps footnotes should have been employed.
Nelson Riddle was certainly an interesting man. Born in 1921, growing up in New Jersey and later California, he had a yen from an early age to become involved in music, playing piano and then trombone. Playing trombone for Tommy Dorsey's band as a young man, Nelson met up with Bill Finnegan who taught him the rudiments of arranging which started him on his path to fame as the singular arranger of swing. His reputation was enhanced by the work he did with Nat Cole, Sinatra and later, Linda Ronstadt. but it was with Sinatra that he discovered his 'sound' - the almost discordant, magnificent chords of brass and strings that burst forth in the space around The Voice, always giving that supportive cushioning for the singer to let rip with his famous phrasing. After completing "I've Got You Under My Skin", Sinatra was heard to remark that it was Nelson's shining hour. But although the two worked like a dream together, they were never close, and eventually Sinatra began to use other arrangers to the discomfort and hurt of Riddle.
Nelson was married twice: Doreen Moran in 1945, resulting in six living children, and then his secretary/assistant, Naomi Tenen. Both were failures. Doreen began a drinking problem which continued for the rest of her life, and Naomi became a sort of jailer, bossing him and watching his every move. But somehow he had affairs, one intense one with Rosemary Clooney and towards the end of his life he found some happiness with Laurie Brooks. Yet he was basically a sad man, keeping his emotions to himself and having a constant feeling of non-achievement and melancholia. (He was heard to envy Henry Mancini).
This book is worth plowing through because this was the time when America discovered its diverse voice in music, when Armstrong, Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and of course Frank were finding their 'sound', when film musicals were prolific and vinyl records were what the young spent their money on, and it was the time of big bands in splashy venues that honed the musician's craft. And that time will never come again.
Nelson Riddle, famous as the man who arranged music for Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, among many others, took life very seriously. This is a detailed account of his life and career. While the man himself might not have been a laugh a minute, this book is very readable and informative, refusing to join Nelson under his own personal cloud. All I ever wanted to know about the man himself is contained between the covers.
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