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Frank and Ella

Frank and Ella

As consultants we often make inapt comparisons. For example, mentoring and coaching are quite different interventions; some situations are structured, but some are unstructured (you don’t know what you don’t know); some action is preventive, some is contingent.

We need to be more discerning, more careful about finding distinctions, not similarities. We’re inculcated with and socialized by the latter, seeking inclusion: “I have a shirt like that.” “We visited the same restaurant.” But distinctions are a tocsin informing us of the express lane to find solutions and improvements.

A lot of “authorities” compare Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald as the two iconic singers of the Great American Songbook, the male and female avatars. However, the comparison is weak, and reveals poor discernment, poor pursuit of distinctions.

For Sinatra, a song was a story. He interpreted lyrics, having access to the finest songwriters and arrangers in history. His breath control was legendary (one trombonist said he could never play his horn the way Sinatra sang) and the results unmatched. A white, skinny kid from Hoboken, he sang “Ole Man River” better than Paul Robeson, the profound black bass and opera star (listen to it on the album “The Concert Sinatra”). His rendition of Cole Porter’s classing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (arranged by Nelson Riddle) may be the greatest single recording in history from the era of popular music.

Ella Fitzgerald was about the sound, not the lyric. Her tone and pitch are wondrous to behold, but there is a blandness in the interpretation. To me, most of her work sounds alike. She pursued wonderful sounds but never moved me with the story by the same composers Sinatra sang.

A much more apt analogy with Sinatra would be Billie Holiday, or even Judy Garland later in her career, where we were hearing of lost loves and tortured souls. (Sinatra didn’t so much sing about love as about loneliness in most of his work.)

I find the Sinatra/Fitzgerald comparisons woefully off the mark, the opinions of people who can’t find distinctions. I find the same in many clients, whose assumptions are only surface-deep.

Find the distinctions that direct you to logical, rapid conclusions. Don’t look for similarities, or you’ll just be the same as everyone else.

“Come Fly With Me….”

© Alan Weiss

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 2

  • Elijah Lim

    December 11, 2012

    Another great one from you, Alan! We humans tend to swing from one to the other.

  • Alan Weiss

    December 11, 2012

    Thanks, Elijah!

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