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Tony DeSare Keeps Frank Sinatra’s Legacy Alive
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Monday, September 25, 2023
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Tony DeSare has been a featured guest artist with more than a hundred symphony orchestras, including the New York Pops, Houston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and even the Sun Valley Music Festival orchestra.

He’s played Carnegie Hall five times, too many jazz clubs to count, and he’s been featured on NPR, Prairie Home Companion and the Today Show.

On Friday he will do a more intimate show at the Argyros Center for the Performing Arts in Ketchum.

“I love those shows because they’re spontaneous,” he said. “I don’t have a set plan of what exactly to play. I interact with the audience and it’s kind of like throwing a party in my living room. Everyone’s invited and part of the experience. And, at some point, I take requests. There’s something intimate about just being up there by myself and not having to worry about a band or orchestra. It’s just a very satisfying experience in which I’m very connected with the individuals in the audience.”

DeSare will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29. Tickets are $25 and $50, available at https://theargyros.org/calendar/tony-desare/.

The audience can expect a mix of great standards from such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Billy Joel, Elton John and James Taylor, as well as a few of DeSare’s originals.

“There’s something for everyone from kids to parents to grandparents. My goal in doing the show is to perform songs from all eras of music, to make people laugh. I think kids will get inspired, especially if they like the piano.”

DeSare is known for making Frank Sinatra’s music his own, even performing in the off-Broadway musical “Our Sinatra.” He started singing Sinatra’s music as a teenager when his mother brought home a cassette tape called “Frank Sinatra Gold.”

“There’s something about his music and voice that completely captivated me at about the age of 15. He was a pop culture figure of the 20th century—a celebrity, a movie star, a frequent subject of gossip columns and even politics. His biggest contribution is the body of work that he recorded, especially in the 1950s and 1960s,” said DeSare.

In Sinatra’s day, DeSare noted, a live orchestra was in the room at every recording session.  And Sinatra was involved in every aspect of a recording from picking the songs to deciding he would keep recording until they got it right, even if it took 40 takes.

“Frank had the single biggest influence on me musically, including his singing style, his face and song, his quest for perfection when recording,” DeSare said. “He was in charge of his own career. He picked the material to suit his taste. He’s been gone since 1998 so I love the idea of being able to keep the music alive, the legacy alive, making sure people are aware of his gift to the world.”

DeSare, called “Rising Star Male Vocalist” by Downbeat magazine, began playing piano as a child growing up in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Mentored by jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, he wrote his first song “Need You” when he was 17.

He has scored several movies, including Hallmark Christmas movies and some thrillers.

“Typically, you don’t have a lot of time to write a score for a Christmas movie--you get like two to three weeks to score the whole movie,” he said. “It’s part of the storytelling process. For me, it’s the last step in telling the story so everything I write needs to serve what’s going on in the movie and the scenes.”

When public performances were shut down at the height of the pandemic, DeSare began recording the “Quarantine Diaries,” eventually amassing 300 videos of himself just playing at the piano for YouTube. As the pandemic receded, he changed the name to “Song Diaries.”

“I play songs personal to me and personal to other people,” he said. “There was a whole new audience of people that discovered me during that time. And it made me much better at performing at the piano by myself.”

DeSare loves performing with orchestras just as much.

“It’s an amazing thing to stand up on stage with all those master musicians. It’s probably the most musically satisfying thing I do because everyone is on stage making music in the moment, and it’s  magical.”

In recent years, DeSare has taken on arranging and producing everything himself. In a perfect world, he could record everything he does with a live orchestra. But, given the expense, he produces recordings from his home studio, getting the full sound of an orchestra out of his computer and, on occasion, hiring a trumpet player or other musician to record what he needs.

DeSare is quick to consult with others or hire those musicians when he thinks it will improve his recording.

“I do that because I realize once a recording is out in the world, that’s the way it’s going to be, what I leave behind,” he said. “I shoot for perfection to the best of my ability. And, like Frank, I keep working on it until know I can’t make any better.”

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