In most of the last seven decades there was a house, somewhere in a place like South Omaha, where a floor full of kids, surrounded by couches full of uncles, all caught up with grandpa while they listened to the “Chairman of the Board.”
At the Holland Center on Saturday night, those memories were brought to life for an adoring crowd of Frank Sinatra fans, myself included, as the Omaha Symphony performed some of Sinatra and the American songbook’s best, alongside Tony DeSare and a piano. Ernest Richardson, principal pops and resident, conducted.
Sinatra’s music is larger than life. It echoes in our hearts as we recall movie soundtracks, wedding dances, funerals, parties, Italian restaurants and our families’ living rooms. It takes more than a simply accessible voice to recreate the candid, evocative and warm sound of one of the 20th century’s most iconic pop icons. Jazz has standards, but Frank is the standard against which we measure their interpretation.
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DeSare’s sweet, bari-tenor timbre brought a not-quite-smoky musical nostalgia to life for the listeners. His set list was a buffet of all the 20th century’s great Frank and Frank-adjacent hits: “Just in Time,” “Night and Day,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “I’ve Got the World on a String” are just a few of the classic tunes he presented. A fantastic homage to Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” and a cleverly samba-fied cover of the Bee Gee’s “How Deep Is Your Love” peppered the set with even more Americana flavor.
DeSare’s rhythm section was equally impressive: Edward Decker on guitar, Dylan Shamat on bass and Michael Klopp on drums helped turn the symphony into a big band, worthy of the silver screen.
DeSare also demonstrated his prowess on the keyboard, even sharing some of his original music. His love song, “How I Say I Love You,” was a stirring tribute to the great love songs of the past 100 years.
DeSare earned standing ovations from the audience at the end of his second set and after his encore, “Great Balls of Fire.” It was the end of his first set, however, as he sang “My Way” that the audience was transported through reminiscent tears by his remarkably sensitive voice to the places they first fell in love with Frank.