I REMEMBER YOU by Bill Reed
As is the case with several other SSJ recording artists, my friendship with Frankie Randall began when I worked with him, for the label, on the reissue of three of his quartet of mid-sixties RCA recordings. Now it is time for the final one of his albums for the outfit (actually the third in the series) to come back into print. (There was, in fact, a fifth RCA release entitled The Mods and the Pops, a more commercially-oriented 1968 recording that the singer only reluctantly acknowledges.)
Almost every time I talk with Randall, I can’t help but come away with the sense that here is some kind of Renaissance Man. One of his latest accomplishments was a stint as a dee-jay for the syndicated radio network, Music of Your Life. And between now and back when, he has been employed as an entertainment director for the Bally Hotel chain, where he employed the likes of Paul Anka, Merv Griffin, Frank Sinatra and, well, just about everybody who was anybody in the field of performing. He is also a composer, arranger and conductor. Nowadays, he also produces and performs in the highly successful touring revue, That’s Italian, which---having been born as Frank Joseph Lisbona in Passaic, New Jersey---Randall most decidedly is. . . that is to say, Italian. (For a time, he also briefly appeared and recorded under the name of Chico Randall, a nickname from his childhood.)
Randall was raised in Clifton, NJ. At the age of seven he began classical piano lessons. He continued his classical training until he was fifteen when his interests turned to jazz. He graduated Clifton High School, after which he earned a music scholarship and worked his way through Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy. Around this time, he recorded his first album, in a trio format, for Roulette Records.
For the past few decades, Randall, who started out as self-accompanied singer, has operated mostly as a stand-up performer. But in 2009, when the leader of his band became unavailable at the last minute, Frankie returned to his roots, singing and playing in a trio format at New York’s Feinstein’s at the Regency. Needless to say, the engagement was a major success. As I say, “Renaissance Man” and. . . Johnny-on-the-spot
Randall was not only Frank Sinatra’s employer (so to speak) at Bally‘s, but also his friend and neighbor. In a 2000 newspaper interview, Frankie recalls: “I used to be at Frank's house sometimes four or five nights a week. He used to love to have first-run movies flown down from L.A. [to Rancho Mirage, CA] and invite friends over, anywhere from two to 20, and sit around with a plate of macaroni and watch the movie and enjoy each other's company. . . I met him in 1961 or '62 when I was working at Jilly's in New York. Jilly (Rizzo) was Frank's closest friend. Frank liked the way I sounded and opened the door for me in Las Vegas.” And it wasn’t long after that that Randall graduated from lounge singer-pianist to high-profile performer with a major label (RCA) recording contract.
This third in the series of four releases for the label (remember, let’s not count The Mods and the Pops) follows in the tradition of the other album’s having secured the best in arranging-conducting field to back him in the studio. The arranger-conductors for I Remember You are Frank Hunter, Manny Albam, and Joe Rene. (The bonus track included here, “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” was recorded during the same sessions but not included on the original album.) The same high standard holds true for the players in the band. While the actual complete rundown of the musicians on the date might well have fallen through the cracks of time, Randall says, “Some of the players I can remember are: Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson, trombone; Harry “Sweets” Edison, trumpet; Phil Woods, alto sax; Donn Trenner, piano; George Duvivier, bass; Mel Lewis, drums.” To which I might add: ”!!!!” (exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point.)
“Of all the RCA albums I did, I Remember You was the smallest group I recorded with and still it was overwhelming,” Randall says. “On all the recordings, others of which utilized as many as thirty musicians, it was just overwhelming. The cream of the crop. And I had to rise to the occasion to be worthy of it. No one records like that anymore except maybe Michael Bublé.” He laughed. "I guess you might even say that I was the Michael Bublé of my day"