In popular music, outside of the artificiality of the stage, the public tends to believe that the singer is the song—that this is their hero’s life—and that belief, perhaps, is the magic of great pop performance. But behind the dazzle are the initial providers, songwriters like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter to give articulation to the voice, to guide by concealed guile the beautiful vocal notes into willing hearts. Then there are the arrangers who must provide a soft bed for the singer to bounce on but not fall and get smothered in brassy bedclothes.
Frank Sinatra was ever mindful of arrangers who should let him bounce casual with a kind of hip dignity yet still be a swinger--a Vegas-like grace. He had watched and learned hard in his Big Band apprenticeship years. Ella Fitzgerald, rising and shedding from a similar band school, was compliant and, letting the backing boys do their job setting her in the frame. Of course in her case it never mattered because she was blessed with an earthily angelic set of pipes and a built-in metronome that never rudely showed.