Monday, December 31, 2012

Tony DeSare with Atlanta Symphony on New Year's Eve

Singing a rapid-fire version of "Just In Time," singer-pianist-songwriter Tony DeSare set off a fine New Year's Eve show with his trio and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.  Billed as a young crooner, he and his trio moved way beyond being a Sinatra tribute act.

He did, in fact, channel Sinatra over Nelson Riddle's orchestral arrangement of "Night and Day." but he then sang Prince's "Kiss."  Reducing that song  to its essentials - lyrics, barebones accompaniment, melody -- DeSare revealed it to be traditional blues, with the bonus of internal rhymes, making it a good companion piece to Cole Porter's standard. 

Craftsmanship is important to DeSare.  His Berlin song "I Love a Piano," besides showcasing his keyboard chops, also integrated the melody with its cousins "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Rhapsody in Blue."  Later, departing from the printed program, DeSare delighted the audience with seventeen variations on "Jingle Bells" with spot-on imitations of piano riffs and vocals of Michael McDonald, Elton John, and also  styles ranging from ragtime  to classical.

Beginning with just piano and vocals, bringing in full orchestra, he and arranger Tedd Firth freed Journey's  ballad "Faithfully" from its 80s sound, and it came out sweet and soaring.

His own compositions were effective.  There was a show-stopping "New Orleans Tango" that played with the musical conventions of two kinds of song, and "How I Will Tell You I Love You" (I may have the title wrong), in AABA form, which builds its lyric on subdued word play -- as, "When you break the rules, I'll bend them around you." 

He got laughs with "Fire," and then hushed the hall with an intimate original ballad, "First Last Kiss."

He was the headliner; the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra delighted us in the first half of the evening with light classical hits including "Dance of the Hours" and Leroy Anderson's "Classical Jukebox," which, like DeSare's "Jingle Bells," had us enjoying variations on an annoying tune, "Put another nickel in ...the nickelodeon...."

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