Sinatra: Nothing but the Best
In the 12 years since Frank Sinatra's passing, there have been a number of professional efforts at capturing the magic of the Chairman of the Board of cool. It's natural that these reviews and tributes concentrate on Old Blue Eye's fabulous voice, as well as his impeccable arrangements and phrasing.
In Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret's current presentation of Sinatra: Nothing but the Best, Jeffrey Roark's charisma and voice provide the latitude for a fine homage without falling prey to imitation (as if anyone could convincingly do that). Roark's rugged handsomeness and self-assuredness serve as a palpable channel for Frank; his phrasing and voice are often pitch perfect glimpses of the iconic crooner himself; his own style and voice shine as well.
The trio—Justin Adams (piano); Robin Ruscio (bass); Dean Oldencott (drums)—is what you would expect a perfectionist like Sinatra to invite to a small club. Adams rolls off riffs that transform Broadway standards into spicy jazz compositions; Ruscio moves fluidly between rhythm, melody, and orchestration; and Oldecott knows every trick in the book to modulate dynamics and texture.
Roark sets up each song with a telling anecdote or tale that follow the arc of Sinatra's life, from his boyhood in Hoboken, his work with Harry James' and Tommy Dorsey's bands, his solo recording career, his successful film career (the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in From Here to Eternity and Best Actor nomination for The Man With the Golden Arm), to his tempestuous marriage with Ava Gardner, the Las Vegas years, and his enduring marriage to Barbara Marx, Zeppo's widow. Roark's choice of songs from the canon to highlight each of these chapters is poignant.
After the instrumental ice-breaker and the entrance title number, with Frances Albert earning $15 a week as a singer, waiter, and comedian, Roark is exuberant in "I've Got the World on a String," with a husky timbre reminiscent of the mature Voice, topped off with some nice bursts of verisimilitude.
After explaining that Frank once said that he learned breathing and phrasing from watching and listening to Tommy Dorsey on the trombone, Roark segues into a sublime "Night and Day."
The song list includes "Fly Me to the Moon" (from Pal Joey), "Something's Gotta Give," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "The Lady is a Tramp," "One For My Baby (And One More for the Road)", "Luck Be a Lady" (from Guys and Dolls), "It Was A Very Good Year," "The Best Is Yet To Come," and "That's Life," plus some lesser know gems that please.
Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret presentation of Jeffrey Roark in Sinatra: Nothing but the Best runs most Fridays through July. 303-293-0075 or lannies.com.