Singer Tony DeSare will perform “Sinatra!” with Columbus Jazz Orchestra

As a youngster growing up in Hudson Falls, New York, the singer Tony DeSare did not give Frank Sinatra too much thinking.

“I knew of course who he was, but I just thought he was the guy who sang ‘New York, New York’ with a tuxedo and a toupee,” said DeSare, a 46-year-old singer now based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Then, at the age of 16, DeSare discovered Sinatra’s iconic 1950s records, such as “Songs for Young Lovers” or “In the Wee Small Hours” – what DeSare now calls “the peak of a great artist”.

“His early years were all about the beautiful voice and the fact that he was the first rock star,” DeSare said. “Then when he came back in the early ’50s, he had lost everything and was really trying to prove himself again in that process. . . . Those records still sound amazing.

DeSare will bring up something Sinatra’s career sweep in concert this weekend with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. “Sinatra! — featuring DeSare performing many of the hits associated with the iconic singer — will be performed Thursday through Sunday at the Southern Theater. CJO Artistic Director Byron Stripling will conduct the orchestra.

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“The great thing about a workgroup is that they know each other,” said DeSare, who has never played with the CJO before. “It’s still a nice, cohesive sound.”

DeSare, who also performs a program of Sinatra songs with mainstream symphony orchestras, is quick to point out that he’s not trying to impersonate Sinatra, though he admits there’s some overlap. between the two.

A young Frank Sinatra in 1943.

“I stay true to his approach to phrasing,” said DeSare, who will also perform many of his own songs during the show. “Our voices, in terms of timbre, are quite similar.”

DeSare would be able to find out: in 1994, at age 17, he saw the legend perform a live concert in Saratoga Springs, New York. Sinatra died four years later at 82 years old.

“He was struggling at the end,” DeSare said. “There were songs where he forgot the lyrics or got lost in the song. But I remember ‘One for My Baby’ for example – he just nailed it. … Everyone was shooting for him; everyone loved him so much.

At that time, this included DeSare, who later met two of Sinatra’s children, Nancy and Frank Jr. He also had a gig opening for comedian (and Sinatra’s friend) Don Rickles.

“I’m definitely passionate about music and I really do my best to bring the audience with me,” he said.

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DeSare sees his mission as keeping Sinatra’s spirit alive – and that includes the artist’s spontaneity.

“That’s why you can’t do impersonation, because the thing about Frank that makes him special live is that he phrased it based on the moment,” he said. “The way saxes might phrase something a little differently informs me, or would inform Frank, how to phrase it.”

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In one look

The Columbus Jazz Orchestra and vocalist Tony DeSare will perform “Sinatra!” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Southern Theater, 21 E. Main St. Tickets are $10 to $68. For more information, visit www.jazzartsgroup.org.

A Beginner’s Guide to Sinatra

Over the years, Frank Sinatra risks becoming an increasingly distant figure for young audiences. Some may not remember him; many more weren’t even born when it was still happening. Ahead of this weekend’s Columbus Jazz Orchestra concerts, Tony DeSare offered his picks for some favorite Sinatra records for those who want to know and hear more.

• DeSare’s favorite Sinatra record: “He was the inventor of the concept album. My favorite album, and it’s also a bit underrated and not as well-known album, is called “Close to You and More”, which he recorded in his heyday in the mid-50s. … His Nelson Riddle with the Hollywood String Quartet. There are only four strings and there is a flute, an oboe, a French horn, a harp and a rhythm section. It is he who sings, at his peak, these beautiful intimate arrangements.

• Most Underrated Sinatra Song“One song that I’m surprised isn’t as well known is called ‘I’m Gonna Live Till I Die’, which I do on this show too. It was a single in the 50s. His voice is in top form, and it’s a great arrangement, a great song, I’d say it’s an underrated song because it’s the one only real Sinatra buffs seem to know.

• Best introduction for a Sinatra beginner: “A good intro would be some of the compilations. I would say “Best of the Capitol Years” would be the best. The second best would be “Very good years”. This is the best of the Reprise years. Anything that gives a good cross section. You would like to hear ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’; you would like to hear “Fly Me to the Moon”. …

“I think my show is a good intro. In fact, I hear from young people who have come to the show, really knowing nothing about Frank Sinatra, and then telling me when I’m signing CDs at the end, that ‘they’re a fan now.’


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Henry R. Wright