There are still some great music nights in New York.
Last night Sting, one of the biggest rock stars on the planet, took over the famed Blue Note jazz club in Greenwich Village. The occasion? To present his pal, Shaggy, the great reggae star, singing Frank Sinatra songs with a jazz- reggae beat and rich, brassy horns that would make Memphis musicians cry.
Sting has produced a just released album he came up with: Shaggy’s “Com Fly Wid Mi.” On a break from touring in Oslo, Sting heard Shaggy idly singing along to a Frank Sinatra CD and came up with the idea to produce a whole album. Sounds crazy but it works. As Sting told the packed crowd at the Blue Note last night: “He has the same voice as Sinatra, a baritone tenor, same range as Sinatra. And I had an idea, the kind where a neon light goes on over your head, Shaggy Sings the Sinatra Songbook produced by yours truly.”
Some of the album was produced in Jamaica, and Miami, but a lot of it was done at Capitol Studios in LA, where Sinatra recorded many of his greatest records.
“When you hear this thing, you will smile. Shaggy is in his own eco-system of reggae,” Sting said.
And the truth is, Sting is right. Shaggy’s voice — which most people know from “It Wasn’t Me” — fits these songs perfectly. Plus, Sting’s production swings, with those gorgeous horns and charts, and a reggae beat reminiscent of The Police accented and fleshed out. As Shaggy noted on stage: “Most reggae has just two chords, but these records have at least five.”
He added: “This album was born out of boredom [during the pandemic]. We hate boredom.”
On the album, and live on stage, Sting — who should be producing more albums for himself and others — gives the vocalist a place to shine but retain his natural rhythms. So on standards from “Witchcraft” to the single, “That’s Life” to “”Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” Shaggy brings out a whole new dimension to his career. Not all the songs Sting chose are big hits, too. My favorite last night was Shaggy’s rendition of “Angel Eyes,” a deep track in the Sinatra catalog from his famous 1958 album, “Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely.”
About mid set, Sting was persuaded to jump on stage and sing background vocals with Shaggy on “You Make Me Feel So Young.” They even included some cute Rat Pack-like patter that came across like Frank and Dean Martin at the Sands circa 1960.
The crowd, which included a lot of radio people, Sirius execs, Sting’s discerning wife Trudie Styler, and three of his six children. was pretty impressed. I think Shaggy was, too. He said, “I never ever expected to be doing this.” He added: Reggae, you just don’t hear it. You feel it. I’m happy to be pushing edge of reggae.”
Pour yourself gin and tonic. Sit on the desk and sunset, and listen