Axel Stordahl is best remembered today as Frank Sinatra's musical director during the 1940s and early 1950s. Born on New York's Staten Island to immigrant Norwegian parents, Stordahl played trumpet and sang with various bands during the 1920s and early 1930s under his given name of ''Odd Stordahl.'' He was arranging for Bert Block's orchestra in 1935 when Tommy Dorsey hired him away. Dorsey also took trumpeter Joe Bauer and vocalist Jack Leonard. Together the men formed a vocal group call the Three Esquires.
While with Dorsey, Stordahl shared arranging duties with bandmate Paul Weston. He and Weston were responsible for bringing the Pied Pipers and singer Jo Stafford to Dorsey's attention. When Sinatra joined the group in 1940 he and Stordahl struck up a special relationship. Stordahl's arrangements were perfectly suited to Sinatra's early vocal style, and when Sinatra went solo in 1942 he chose Stordahl as his musical director. Over the course of the next nine years Stordahl worked on the majority of Sinatra's Columbia recordings and followed Sinatra to Capitol in 1953 to orchestrate the singer's debut album for that label. Stordahl's arrangements during this period are often cited as pioneering, helping to define the shift away from the big band era to the more vocalist-centered popular music of the post-war period.
While directing the orchestra on Sinatra's television program in the early 1950s Stordahl met singer June Hutton, also a regular on the show. The two were married in 1951. During that decade Stordahl worked with many of the top singers of the day, including Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, Bing Crosby, and Dinah Shore. He also released music under his own name on the Decca, Dot, and Capitol labels. In the late 1950s he served as musical director on the television program Startime and in the early 1960s composed music for the comedy series McHale's Navy. Sinatra and Stordahl parted ways after 1953 and didn't work together again until 1961, when Stordahl returned to work on the singer's last album with Capitol, Point of No Return. Stordahl suffered from cancer in the last few years of his life. Axel Stordahl passed away in 1963.