By Don Heckman
The music of Frank Sinatra was in the air Saturday night in the amiable environs of the Paschal Winery. The music, that is, which Ol’ Blue Eyes vividly brought to life in his long career as an entertainment world icon. The music of the Great American Songbook.
The performers celebrating the centennial of Sinatra’s birth were singer Leslie Kendall and the stellar backing of the Ed Dunsavage Trio featuring drummer Chicken Hirsh and bassist Joe Cohoon with special guests Dmitri Matheny on flugelhorn and Tony Hayes on tenor sax and vocals. It was an immensely entertaining way for the Siskiyou Music Project to wrap up its 2014 – 2015 season.
The catalog of songs associated with Sinatra could have provided enough classics for a week of perfomances. Kendall and the players chose two hours, starting with “Nice & easy” and winding up with “The Lady Is A Tramp.”
Kendall’s interpretations were dynamic and enthusiastic. In the early part of the program, singing songs such as “In the Wee Small Hours,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Come Fly With Me,” she occasionally verged into emulating the Sinatra style, not a wise choice.
In the second half, however, her versions of other tunes – “I Get A kick Out of You,” “Angel Eyes,” “One for My Baby” and others — she was comfortably within her own style, singing warmly, telling the musical stories convincingly and swinging with irresistible rhythmic flow.
Another high point of the program was delivered by saxophonist Hayes, a gifted instrumentalist who also sang appealing versions of “Witch Craft,” “Night and Day,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and more.
Add to that the stunning work of the entire band. Several instrumental numbers – “You Go To My Head’” and “What Now My Love” showcased the players at their best. Matheny, a jazz artist with a well established reputation, repeatedly demonstrated how worthy he is of the critical praise that has accompanied his high visibility career. He also wrote most of the band’s crisply swinging arrangements for the performance.
Hayes, not yet a well-known figure in the jazz world, is one who will, nonetheless, be heard from in the future. Remember his name.
And some final praise for the Dunsavage trio. Guitarist Dunsavage has done a remarkable job of bringing world class performers to the Siskiyou Project’s program. But beyond that, he and his trio have also provided some of their own fine jazz moments over the course of the entire Project season.
Because of the overflow turnout for this event, Dunsavage announced that the Project’s Sinatra Centennial program may continue on December 12, the actual Sinatra birthdate. For information check the Project’s website HERE.