Singing Sinatra, Booking Sinatra - The Perfect Combination for a Legend

Monday, July 25, 2016.

Sinatra is the standard. There is no point imitating him. That’s why Dave Damiani and Renee Olstead, performing August 18th in Cabaret Jazz, are bending the standard. They are bringing modern interpretations of Sinatra classics and other selections from The Great American Songbook to a new generation.

“We want to do it in our own way, so we’re not copying arrangements,” says Damiani, who is based in Los Angeles and released his debut album, "Watch What Happens,” in 2013. “That’s why the Sinatra family really likes working with us because we do our own take on the music; we do our own original take on every song we perform.”

It’s a heady endorsement, since the Sinatra family is particular with whom they collaborate. The first time they worked with Damiani was at The Grove in Los Angeles, where Nancy Sinatra and Charles Pignone, author of “Sinatra 100,” signed copies of the book. Pignone also will be at Cabaret Jazz with Damiani.

While Damiani may be bending the standard, he knows that some in his audience are big fans of Sinatra. “Every once in a while we’ll throw in the original arrangement for ‘Under My Skin’ just to show people that this is what you guys are used to, and then we’ll do our own take on it. We’re not going to take a Sinatra tune and do it so different that you can’t relate to it.”

Olstead, an actress and recording artist, became part of the group through mutual friends.  They invited her out to sing in a club. She loved his musical group, The No Vacancy Orchestra, because of “the energy, great dress and vibe.”

“Everything we do is based in the great trios: Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly, and Red Garland -- straight ahead swing jazz trios. That’s where the arrangements come from,” explains Damiani. “Then we add the horns after. Me and the rhythm section are best of friends.” His goal: bridge the gap through a fresh take on songs by Sinatra and other artists, including The Beatles, Joe Jackson, and Amy Winehouse.

“He’s a very engaging young performer,” notes Pignone, co-president of Sinatra Enterprises, who supports that bridge building. Whenever the Sinatra family decides on working with an artist, they have one stipulation: if they have similar charts, they don’t want to be a part of it. “I think it’s more artistic when they do it in their own way. Dave understood that, has great new writers, new charts, and modernizes them for a new generation.”

By performing the standards of Sinatra and other performers in his own style, Damiani is, ironically, doing it his way.

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