Listen: Omar Kamal, dubbed the ‘Palestinian Frank Sinatra’, covers an Ol’ Blue Eyes classic

The classic track is part of the soon-to-release EP ‘Late Nights with Omar Kamal’

Omar Kamal. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival
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Omar Kamal is paying tribute to Frank Sinatra with his latest cover.

Launched as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival, Kamal's sumptuous version of 1955 song In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning, has arrived on YouTube with an accompanying music video.

The new release, shortened to In the Wee Small Hours, also offers a preview of both his coming EP Late Nights with Omar Kamal and world tour, which will include a performance at New York City's Jazz at Lincoln Centre.

Both projects are supported by the Abu Dhabi Festival, with the EP release and tour dates to be announced soon.

For Kamal, dubbed the "Palestinian Frank Sinatra", the classic sees him going back to his roots.

"This is where it all started," he said.

“The exclusive and solitary world of jazz ballads allows you to dig deep into the hidden corners of the soul and come out with expressions in the form of music and song”.

The new work is also a return to Kamal's established sound.

In 2019, he released experimental second album Show Me The Light, which saw him ditch the crooner image and explore a variety of styles including Arabic folk, Mediterranean balladry and even prog-rock.

The adventurous move paid off, with Kamal performing a sold-out show at Dubai Opera that same year.

From Palestine to Hollywood

From humble beginnings, Kamal’s career continues to soar.

Growing up in Nablus in the midst of the Second Intifada, Kamal was 8 when he took up piano at home as a form of respite.

Encouraged by his music-loving parents and early obsession with Sinatra, Kamal eventually relocated to Cardiff, Wales, where, as well as obtaining an engineering degree, he performed regularly with a number of jazz groups across the UK.

His live shows, in addition to a string of YouTube recordings of regional classics, such as Fairuz's and the patriotic anthem Mawtini, as well as jazz numbers by Dean Martin and Sinatra's track What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?, eventually garnered the attention of Dubai-headquartered music label Sony Music Middle East, which signed him.

The Hollywood ending came with Kamal recording his 2017 debut album Serenade in Capitol Studios, Los Angeles. The same studio in which Sinatra recorded more than a dozen of his seminal albums, including 1954's Songs for Young Lovers.

"(I have) a kind of obsession about Frank Sinatra and studied the way he sang," he told The National in 2018. "It also made me move away from classical towards jazz and swing. It did kind of start with him."

Considering the nocturnal theme of the EP, Kamal couldn't have picked a better lead single than In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.

Late night inspiration

Composed by David Mann with lyrics by Bob Hilliard, the duo came up with the torch song during a late night writing session in 1955.

The pining lyrics, which centre on a late night brooding over a former lover, suited Sinatra well.

At the time, he was recovering from a string of failed relationships and wanted to produce an album documenting the tumultuous time.

The song went on to open his 1955 album In the Wee Small Hours, a masterful collection of love laments, which were seen as a career leap for Sinatra and one of the first true concept albums in pop music.