By Don Heckman
The row of stretch limos lined up inside the mini-mall at the top of Beverly Glen Tuesday night made it instantly clear that some sort of special event was taking place at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. As it was.
Frank Sinatra’s name in the title of any musical event lends a unique cachet, of course. And this one – headlined “Davi Sings Sinatra” – had the added presence of actor Robert Davi, whose credits reach from films (License to Kill, Die Hard, the Goonies) to television (Profiler, Stargate Atlantis), as well as his directorial debut in The Dukes.
So, okay, there’s nothing strikingly new about an actor reaching out for a career as a singer. And Sinatra-inspired tribute shows – by Sinatra simulators, imitators, and the real deal — Frank Sinatra, Jr. – show up with considerable regularity.
But Davi is something special. Start with his charismatic presence, his laid back Italian manner and, above all, his musicality. By the time he’d finished his second number – “Nice ‘n’ Easy” – and was swinging smoothly through “At Long Last Love,” it was apparent that he was clearly in touch with the content, the details and the spirit of Sinatra’s way with a song.
Backed by a stellar, hard swinging big band, he continued on, offering one classic after another. He tapped into the jaunty swing of “Come Fly With Me,” “Luck Be A Lady” and “Fly Me To The Moon.” And followed up with a tear down the walls romp through “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” His balladry was rich with emotion in tunes such as “Moonlight In Vermont,” “It Was A Very Good Year,” “Angel Eyes” and the rarely heard “Summer Wind.” And his story telling abilities were a constant presence, adding convincing authenticity to each of his interpretations.
True, Davi remained closely in touch with the Sinatra versions of the songs. In many cases, anyone familiar with the original recordings by ol’ blue eyes would have found it easy to sing along in unison. But that was perhaps understandable, given the title of the show. More importantly, the performance came across as an affectionate, deeply respectful acknowledgement of an artist who has had a creative impact upon Davi (whose 1977 debut as a screen actor took place in Contract on Cherry Street, with Sinatra).
Many of the songs will also be present on Davi’s debut recording, Davi Sings Sinatra; On the Road To Romance, scheduled for release on Oct. 24. And that’s worth checking out by anyone who didn’t make it to Vibrato on Tuesday night.
Still, by the end of the long, entertaining program, one couldn’t help but wish for an opportunity to hear Davi’s obviously extensive vocal skills applied to other material, as well. To songs, for example – and there are dozens that would fit his personal style — offering opportunities for him to reach deeply into his own interpretive abilities.
Hopefully that’s what will come next.