Thursday, May 3, 2007

Tony DeSare: Last First Kiss

By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.3.07
Buy CD: Last First Kiss

When I reviewed DeSare's first CD about a year ago, I predicted a great future, assuming he was managed properly. 

This album is further proof that he's on track to stardom. 

He has a great voice, plays more than adequate piano and (can't hurt!) is really good-looking. Given sufficient exposure, he should develop a huge fan base, both men and women. 

While listening to this release, one of my first thoughts was, "This guy sounds like a male version of Diana Krall" (intended as a sincere complement). After reading the CD liner notes, I found a quote by DeSare in which he makes the same comparison. 

We're both right: Krall plays better piano, but DeSare's voice and phrasing are on a par with hers. And, although he sounds a little like Harry Connick Jr., DeSare is a better vocalist. 

This album contains a baker's dozen of tunes, four of which DeSare wrote: "Let's Just Stay In," "I'll Never Have Enough of You," "Lover's Lullaby" and "Last First Kiss." The rest of the tunes are standards, several arranged in a jazz format; pleasing examples include "Kiss," a Prince tune, and Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move." 

The backup groups, ranging from trios to octets, are excellent. Bucky Pizzarelli (guitarist on most tracks) and a tasty rhythm section keep the arrangements moving ... always adding, never subtracting. 

It can be hard for a vocalist to hold an audience's attention, because of the sameness of each arrangement: vocal chorus, one or two instrumental solos, then a closing chorus and out. DeSare uses several techniques to solve that problem: Each tune is short — three to four minutes — and the quality of his piano playing, and the talents of the other soloists, prevent any boredom. 

This is an excellent album, and it's true jazz: a genuine delight.

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