(In honor of publication of David Lehman's Sinatra's Century.)
1980, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn are leading a quartet at Fat Tuesdays. After two wonderful sets, I’m about to leave when I overhear a waiter say that someone representing Frank Sinatra just called to reserve a table for the last set.
The scheduled time comes; no Sinatra. The musicians drink and smoke and look at their watches. One of them says he heard a rumor that Sinatra is going to do his next album with a jazz quartet, so perhaps he’s on a scouting mission. “Aw, the hell with Sinatra, let's play,” Zoot says, quickly adding, “Just kidding. We can wait for him.”
Finally, a party comes in: a couple of tough-looking guys, and a young couple dressed like they have come from a prom. Trailed by Sinatra, looking tired, dressed in what I assume is the first thousand-collar suit I have seen in person. Nobody pays overt attention to Frank, but peripheral vision runs rampant.
Al Cohn and Zoot Sims resume swinging. A woman in her early fifties breaks the code and bee-lines toward Sinatra with a menu in one hand and a pen in the other. One of the bodyguards emerges from the shadows and cuts her off. Sinatra slightly lifts a finger, nods, and the bodyguard backs off.
The woman puts the menu in front of Sinatra and says something. He beckons her closer, and she whispers into his ear. Sinatra nods again and signs the menu. The woman walks away with a big smile—no one else approaches—and Sinatra turns back to the music, keeping time—or maybe making time happen—with his eyes.