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Nice 'n' Easy

Written: 1960

Words and Music by: Lew Spence,
Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, (and Frank Sinatra)*

Written for: Independent Publication
(not for a Broadway show, revue, movie, etc.)

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On the Main Stage at Cafe Songbook

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Shirley Horn


"Nice 'n' Easy"

Live in Concert, Bern, Switzerland

live performances of this song can be found on
Shirley Horn's album I Thought About You (1992)


and Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival

More Performances of "Nice 'n' Easy"
in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
(Video credit )


Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"Nice 'n' Easy"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Origins of the Song

book cover: "Sinatra the Song Is You" by Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald, Sinatra! The Song Is You A Singer's Art,
New York: Scribners, 1995.
Da Capo Press paperback edition
(shown above) 1997












Count Basie and his Orchestra play
"April in Paris" (1956) including the "One More Time" Sinatra alludes to at the conclusion of "Nice 'n' Easy."





The 1960 Frank Sinatra recording, final version

*Generally speaking, Lew Spence wrote music and Alan and Marilyn Bergman (born Marilyn Keith) wrote lyrics, yet various editions of the sheet music for "Nice 'n' Easy" list words and music by all three while other editions give the music as being by Spence and the lyrics as being by the Bergmans. The 1960 edition published by Barton Music Co. Ltd., London & New York (Sinatra's own publishing company) uses the "words and music by" formulation but goes even further including credit for Sinatra as well as the others. No matter which attribution of credit is technically correct, there can be little doubt that Spence wrote most of the music and the Bergmans took care of the bulk of the lyric. It is inevitable, however, that no matter how much or, more likely, how little Sinatra may have contributed to the writing, in any discussion of the matter Frank will wind up being the center of attention. Our two cents below is no exception.

Will Friedwald in his book Sinatra The Song Is You gives an account of the origin of the song that may explain Sinatra's writing credit. According to Friedwald, Spence had composed a fragment of the melody and although he didn't much care for it, played it for the Bergmans during a work session on another song. Alan Bergman quickly thought of "Nice 'n' Easy," as a title and with that getting them started they had soon completed the song, both words and music. (The way Friedwald describes it gives reason to believe that all three contributed to the music as well as the lyric.) In any case, Spence must have thought it was worth a shot with Sinatra because during a break in the filming of Ocean's Eleven, he ran it by the singer. Sinatra, for whatever reason, reacted with contempt, picking up the sheet music between thumb and forefinger and dropping it as if it were contaminated.

Fortunately for all concerned, Sinatra's associate Hank Sanicola thought the song worthy enough to hold onto, playing a few bars whenever Sinatra was hanging around until finally the singer asked what that tune was, now with a much more positive attitude toward it. It worked because before anyone knew it, Sinatra, at least acting as if he had no recollection of trashing it earlier, had it delivered to Riddle and even favored using it as the opening track on the new album. Furthermore, the song, not long before having been discarded like garbage, became the title track for the album.

The credit Sinatra here and there receives for co-writing "Nice 'n' Easy" (though he isn't listed as a writer for it with ASCAP), is most likely owing to the coda or tag that closes the song and which quotes Count Basie. Sinatra alludes to Basie's famous tag line just before the Count reprises the final bars of "April in Paris" in a 1955 concert: "one more time," Basie says to his orchestra. At the conclusion of "Nice 'n' Easy," Sinatra says, "like the man [meaning Basie] says, 'One more time'." That Sinatra might have been making a connection between reprising a portion of the song and reprising his career with this song, one of his last Capitol albums, soon to be succeeded by his new label, Reprise, can only be a conjecture.

The coda did not spring fully formed from Sinatra's mouth. Before he got to the final version, he went through a revision process as writers usually do, (though in this case somewhat unconventionally) not at his desk but in the studio, live, so to speak, during the earlier takes. These early drafts, as it were, include the bawdy "Just put your hand on it, baby, that's all," "slowly baby," and "isn't that better baby," all of which were discarded in favor of the Basie reference that is used on the record. No doubt Sinatra made the right choice, not just because of his comment, "That record may get everyone here arrested" but because the spontaneous evolution of the ending led to what was just right. The out-takes reveal to us not that Sinatra had a down and dirty side (What else is new?) but that laying down a track with him, at least in this case, is a charming, spontaneous collaboration -- as the song says, 'nice 'n' easy'.

The case for giving songwriting credit to Sinatra for "Nice 'n' Easy" is perhaps weakened a bit when it is noticed that none of the other performances of the song, at least the ones available on this page, include his coda, not even Basie's studio version.

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Critics Corner

book cover: Charles L. Granata, "Sessions with Sinatra"
Charles L. Granata
Sessions with Sinatra: Frank Sinatra
and the Art of Recording

Chicago: Chicago Review Press
A Capella Books, 1999

Charles Granata gives a full account of the sessions during which Sinatra records the album Nice 'n' Easy as well as it's title song. Germane to the discussion above regarding Sinatra creating the coda for the song, he tells us that lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman were in the studio's production booth while the recording process was going on. Granata quotes Alan Bergman:

The tag [coda] was a big surprise, and his doing it twice delighted us."

"Especially fascinating," Granata comments," is how Sinatra works to find the proper wording and rhythmic cadence for the half spoken, half-sung tag.

"On the released record, the reprise and tag play out like this:

Nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it every time
[spoken] like the man says one more time . . .

Nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it every time

"On the familiar record, the song then ends with a seven-note acoustic bass fill and one Sinatra finger snap on the last beat" (Granata, p. 144).

book cover: David Jenness and Don Velsey: Classic American Popular Song the Second Half Century
David Jenness and Don Velsey
Classic American Popular Song: The Second Half-Century, 1950-2000
New York: Routledge, 2005

David Jenness and Don Velsey while writing about the Bergmans and Lew Spence in their uniquely important study of what might be called volume two of The Songbook (for them songs written between 1950 and 2000) comment on "Nice 'n' Easy." They point out that it's the Bergman's first big hit and of their songs, it's "the nearest to a hard swinging song, owing to the persistent syncopation and dotted rhythm, which is often quite subtle."

They also like the "playful" rhymes (of course is with hold your horses) and adding to all the other discussions of the song's sexual innuendo, cite, "We're on the road to romance, that's safe to say; but let's make all the stops along the way," as a particularly amusing example contributing to the overall "sexy and insinuating" effect produced, especially when the song is taken at a slow tempo.

Jenness and Velsey are also interested in the way the songwriters of "Nice 'n' Easy" play "melodically with half-steps," in a style that almost demands bending the intervals." They compare this extended use of half-steps to being "like a puppy worrying about a bone . . . . 'It's such fun, please don't make me stop!'"

(See Jenness and Velsey, pp. 101, 247)

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Lyrics Lounge

Start video below to read the streamed lyrics for "Nice 'n' Easy," as Sinatra sings it on his original 1960 Capitol recording. (See Critics' Corner above for commentary on the lyric.)

A setting-appropriate performance of "Nice 'n' Easy"
in a Prague metro station (Florenc), December, 15, 2016, by Jazz Elements.
The location of the performance fits the sexy line in the lyric:
"We'll make all the stops along the way."

Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

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Research Resources:
Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Alan and Marilyn Bergman research resources on the web (listed alphabetically by web source):
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Alan and Marilyn Bergman research resources in print (listed chronologically):
  • David Ewen. American Songwriters, An H. W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary. New York: The H. W. Wilson Co., 1987 (includes 146 bios of composers and lyricists). -- a wide selection of used copies is available at abebooks.com (Bergman entry, pp. 27-29).
  • Christopher Loudon. A Conversation with Alan Bergman. Jazz Times. Oct. 25, 2010.
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Posted Comments on "Nice 'n' Easy":


From anonymous visitor, May 15, 2019: "The album Nice 'n' Easy was a Capitol recording not Reprise."

Cafe Songbook response: You are certainly correct. The page for the song "Nice 'n' Easy" has been revised accordingly. Thanks.

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("Nice 'n' Easy" page)


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This section is currently incomplete.

The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"Nice 'n' Easy"

(All Record/Video Cabinet entries below
include a music-video
of this page's featured song.
The year given is when the studio
track was laid down
or when the live performance was given.)

Performer/Recording Index

Frank Sinatra
album: Nice 'n' Easy

album cover: Frank Sinatra "Nice 'n Easy"


Notes: Even though Nice 'n' Easy (the LP album) begins a new phase of Sinatra's recording career, it is, at least at first glance, more retrospective than forward looking. All of its songs, excepting the title song, are standards he recorded for Columbia during the 1940s and early 1950s. They are however new in the sense that they have updated arrangements by Nelson Riddle which turn out to make the performances completely fresh. The sessions during which the tracks of these standards were laid down took place over three evenings during the first week of March, 1960. One of these tracks, however, Hoagy Carmichael's and Ned Washington's "The Nearness of You," was dropped from the album and replaced by "Nice 'n' Easy," a newly written song never before recorded by Sinatra. In fact "Nice 'N' Easy" was recorded about a month later (April 13, at Capitol Studio A, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California) and became the the album's title song. This change reflected the thinking that a song written for Sinatra and this album and having a completely contemporary feel about it would reinforce the idea that the album was genuinely new and would thereby receive a better response from the public. This thinking was borne out.

When the album was later released as a CD, four more songs (none of which were included on the original vinyl LP) were added including the above cited "The Nearness of You" as well as "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Day in - Day Out," and "My One and Only Love."
1. Click here to listen to The 1960 version of "Nice 'N Easy" that appeared on the album Nice 'n' Easy shown above.
2. See just below for Sinatra singing "Nice 'n Easy" with Gene Kelly dancing on the TV special "Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" (1973). (The video of this performance is also included in the Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection.)
In this version, during which Sinatra takes many liberties with the lyric, the Basie quote (as discussed in the center column) remains but is given to Kelly.

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video before starting another.)

Count Basie
album: Hits of The 50's and 60's--This Time By Basie


Notes: ". . . if you check the list of tunes, you can see where Reprise Records' producer came up with the name. This is my personal favorite Basie band: Thad Jones, Al Grey, Henry Coker, Marshall Royal, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Sonny Payne and the ever-present Freddie Green....and the stars really shine on these magnificent Quincy Jones arrangements. These charts are STILL being played by bands 40+ YEARS LATER!! (The album jacket credited Quincy himself as the arranger, but it really was just Quincy's music company--the actual arrangements were done by one of Quincy's writers, Billy Byers! Thanks to John C. Smith and Dan Haerle for sharing their research on this)" -- from Amazon reviewer C. Law.
To hear the famous "one more time" call, listen to the version in the left column.

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Peggy Lee
album: Guitars a la Lee

The album Guitars a la Lee is also available as part of a 'twofer' CD with Pretty Eyes.
(View at Amazon.)


Notes: Guitars a la Lee . . . begins with "Nice 'n' Easy" which, despite it's title, is upbeat . . . . Peggy soon slips back into a romantic mood with a soft, reflective version of "Strangers in the Night" . . . . The final track on this album is a swinging cover of Petula [Clark's] 'Call Me.' Peggy was Petula's main influence back in the fifties, but Petula moved away from that sound . . . . Here, Peggy shows that she could also adapt to the sixties without sacrificing her integrity" (from Amazon reviewer Peter Dunward Harris.)
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Shirley Horn
album: Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival

The live track from the concert on the Cafe Songbook Main Stage (above).


Notes: "Shirley Horn's sole appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival took place in 1994 and it is one of her most compelling performances of her career. The often raucous Monterey audience is captivated by her infectious vocals and swinging piano, accompanied by her long time bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams" (from iTunes review).
Video: see Cafe Songbook Main Stage for a 1990 Horn performance of "Nice 'n' Easy" live at Bern Switzerland.
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Michael Bublé
album: Come Fly with Me


Notes: This live version from Bublés early days couldn't be more in the style of his model, Sinatra, but for all the similarities, it swings and holds its own.
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John Pizzarelli
album: Dear Mr. Sinatra


Notes: "While many recorded tributes to Sinatra since his death have been abysmal at best, vocalist and guitarist John Pizzarelli knows a little something about swinging and finding the essence of each song. Backed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, with whom Pizzarelli toured prior to the making of this CD, along with arrangements by John Clayton, Don Sebesky, Dick Lieb, and Quincy Jones, he sought to focus primarily on songs written with Sinatra in mind, though taking new approaches to each of them" (from iTunes review).
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Natalie Cole
album: Still Unforgettable


Notes: "While [Natalie Cole] has been reinterpreting classics on and off for nearly two decades now, she can't be faulted for phoning it in; in fact, she seems to be having more fun with the songbook than before" (from iTunes review).
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Jack Jones
album: Love Makes the Changes:
The Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman


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Barbra Streisand
album: What Matters Most:
Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman


Notes: "What Matter's Most is Streisand's 33rd studio album and she hasn't missed a beat! This two disc set is a collection of songs by Alan and Marilyn Bergman (whom she won Academy Awards with for "Yentl" and "The Way We Were"). Produced by Streisand herself, disc 1 contains Bergman songs she has never before recorded. Disc 2 (on the Deluxe Edition only) is a set of previously recorded songs. Included with a colorful 24 page booklet . . . " (from Amazon customer reviewer, Polar Bear).
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Houston Person
album: Nice 'n' Easy


Notes: The CD was first released in 2013 and rereleased in 2018. Album personel include Houston Person (tenor sax), John di Martino (piano), Chuck Redd (drums), Ray Dummond (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums). Released by HighNote Records, Inc. October 22, 2013.

album cover: Houston Person "Nice 'n' Easy"

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