The lights go down. Familiar horns pipe up from a world-class orchestra as piano twinkles like the jackpot lights on a winning slot machine. Then, the voice kicks in. It has all of the smoky splendor those first few notes hinted at, but it ain’t Ol’ Blue Eyes. In a tailored suit with microphone in hand, it’s Mark Tremonti. The GRAMMY® Award-winning multiplatinum musician sounds just as at home paying homage to the catalog of Frank Sinatra as he does fronting Tremonti or shredding his soul out as the guitarist for Alter Bridge and Creed. Moreover, he’s doing it for a reason that’d make the Chairman of the Board proud. Accompanied by surviving members of Sinatra’s band as well as various top-notch players, Tremonti cut 14 classics for Tremonti Sings Sinatra, which he gifted to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) as part of his new organization Take A Chance For Charity. 100% of the album’s proceeds will go to NDSS to help people with developmental disabilities.
It's Tremonti like you've never heard him on perhaps the most important record of his career thus far...
“For years, Iʼve loved singing along to Frankʼs songs,” Mark explains. “One night, I found an old video of him performing ʻThe Song Is Youʼ from 1944. It made me want to dive into his vocal approach. I was all in and I wanted to do something with it. When we found out about our daughter Stellaʼs Down syndrome diagnosis, the stars aligned. My obsession with Sinatra had its reason. Frank Sinatra raised more than a billion dollars for charity and that is a fact I wish the public knew more about. Beneath his cool and calm persona, he had a big heart. Doing this charity in his name was another way the stars had aligned. I decided to do this record to raise funds for families and individuals with Down syndrome. This project is the start of a new purpose that I will have for the rest of my life.”
Tremonti recalls hearing Sinatra for the first time as a child during Christmas. He continued to sing those tunes throughout his entire life (and regularly on the drive to and from his son's soccer practice and while those 3-hour practices were happening up to 5 times a week). It was the perfect opportunity for Mark to focus on Frank Sinatra's vocal approach. Though he initially felt some nerves about tackling Sinatra's catalog, he had to do it for Stella. The Tremonti family found out about her diagnosis and did everything they could, attending support groups, reading voraciously about Down syndrome, and devoting themselves to her completely. However, there were challenges ahead. During one of their doctor's visits, they noticed holes in Stella's heart prior to her birth. Eventually, she needed open heart surgery at barely eleven-months-old. It was and forever will be the toughest thing Mark and his family have ever endured.
“The waiting between the appointment and the surgery was the worst time in my life without exaggeration," he sighs. "It was the saddest thing. There's nothing like holding your little girl, feeling all of the sweetness and pure love that she is and knowing you have to prepare her for open heart surgery. They had to bypass her heart, and she was out for a day-and-a-half. When she came back around, it became the best week of my life. A week later, she had no idea she had surgery. Since then, she's been all smiles. I would love to let other families know that they can get through this and become stronger because of it. After going through Stella's surgery, I want to raise as much money as possible to help other families that might have similar health concerns so they can focus on their loved ones and not the financial cost that comes with it.”
The project held a much greater gravity than anything else Tremonti had ever done. He pitched his manager Tim Tournier who was all-in. In what he calls "another stars aligning moment"; Tournier actually took lessons from Sinatra guitarist Dan McIntyre [Sinatra Jr., Della Resse, Vic Damon). McIntyre linked Tremonti and Tournier with Sinatra's own band leader Mike Smith [Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr.]. Tremonti proved that he was committed and had the vocal chops to tackle this monumental undertaking.
Tournier adds, "Mark was so passionate about his desire to combine his love for Frank Sinatra and to do something for Stella, I was immediately invested in this idea. Having known Dan McIntyre for most of my life, I knew the two would connect. Dan was the one who sent me on my musical path and connecting my mentor with my longtime friend is one of the most-gratifying things of my career."
Sold on Tremonti's voice, they were granted rare approval from The Frank Sinatra Estate to move forward, and they moved forward in style. Tremonti bought a tailored suit and hopped on a plane to Chicago for three sessions in 2021 led by Smith and McIntyre. They would be joined by a cohort of A-list musicians whose credits span from Sinatra (of course), Sammy Davis Jr., Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, and Barry Manilow to Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, and Buddy Rich.
On his first trip to the Windy City, Tremonti dug in by recording 'Luck Be A Lady', while Smith conjured the spirit of “The Voice."
“Mike handed me Frank's actual vocal chart with his name on top of it," recalls Tremonti. "I tried to give it back, and Mike said, 'I want you to have this to get that mojo.' He gave me the exact tea Frank drank before he sang with the right amount of lemon. I kept the packet in my Sinatra notebook. It was unbelievable to be working with the guys who were actually on stage with him.”
He introduces the album with the opener and first single "I've Got You Under My Skin." As the horn section swoons, Tremonti's own light baritone reflects the tune's spirited ebb and flow as the instantly recognizable big band solo takes flight.
“When I was listening to 'I've Got You Under My Skin' again, the moment where he comes out of the bridge section gave me chills; he smiles. "It's one of Nelson Riddle's best arrangements. On a funny side note, it is one of my favorites to tackle on karaoke night!"
On the other end of the spectrum, a nylon guitar simmers beneath the jazzy spunk of “Wave”.
“It’s a great example of Frank using the lower register of his voice," Tremonti goes on. “It’s such a hip tune. I picture 007 sitting on the beach with a martini as it plays. It's one of my favorites and I didn't want to only cover the hits. There are some album tracks and some deep cuts that will encourage everyone to dig back in to Sinatra's catalog."
He puts his own spin on “I Fall In Love Too Easily” with powerful intonation and nuanced inflection, adding a personal touch to that signature Sinatra sound.
“It was originally in the movie ‘Anchors Away,’ he says. "At one point, Gene Kelly leaves, and Sinatra sits at the piano and plays 'I Fall In Love Too Easily'. I always loved the song, especially the chorus."
Elsewhere, the band reimagines "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning," while "All Or Nothing At All” rewinds back to Sinatra's earliest days. As part of the final session in Chicago, Tremonti dove into “My Way" with an acoustic guitar to close out recording.
“When the final recording session ended, it was truly a sad moment for me; he admits. "Seeing the last guys standing at the end of the session was a reminder that this chapter was coming to an end. We climbed a mountain, but I could've gone on forever with it."
Well, it is just the beginning. Tremonti Sings Sinatra serves as the inaugural project for his new Take A Chance For Charity movement. It encourages and empowers artists, actors, athletes, and entertainers of all stripes to step into unexpected territory with a creative initiative for charity. Whether it be a football player singing country, an actor salsa dancing, or a guitar player singing Sinatra, it's all for a great cause.
“So many talented people have other skills that their fans or followers would never expect," he leaves off. "This is the chance to do something you're passionate about for charity. It's a greenlight to do whatever you want to do. It's a win-win all around. I want people to talk about this enough to get other artists to participate," he leaves off. "Someday, I hope I'm a little old man who raised 100 million dollars for charity. My daughter has already made everyone around her a better person. To do this for her means the world to me.”
In the end, Tremonti did this all for Stella.