Review by Cathy DeDe
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Reprinted with permission from The Glens Falls Chronicle
We here at The Chronicle — like many of our readers — have been following Tony DeSare’s career from his teenaged gigs at local joints to the big time outings with Don Rickles, Bucky Pizarelli, Joe Piscopo, at Carnegie Hall and around the globe.
So, what’s one more feather in the cap of this 36-year-old Hudson Falls graduate, valedictorian of his class of 1994, someone we regularly refer to as a “rising star” on the international jazz-standards scene?
Yet, there was a little thread of a buzz Friday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, local-to-local making eye contact on the lawn, in the amphitheater, bumping into familiar hometown folks as the sizable crowd swelled despite the rain.
This was Tony’s night, guest male vocalist on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s annual Pops program conducted by Steve Reineke, entirely earned on merit.
Maestro Reineke had invited Tony to perform here alongside Broadway star Montego Glover before he knew our Tony was a local. The upshot, though, was our opportunity to see what Tony’s been doing most in the last couple of years — performing orchestrations of his own and others’ classic songs in front of prominent orchestras, from the New York Philharmonic Pops to the St. Louis Symphony.
Over Labor Day weekend, he fronted the National Symphony Orchestra on the Mall in Washington D.C., playing nearly all of his own music and orchestrations.
Up in Saratoga at SPAC, the “Sinatra and Beyond” program was a little less his own. Tony and Montego Glover came out separately and as a pair for some dozen highlighted numbers interspersed with straight orchestra selections.
Tony’s light shone increasingly all night, and especially in the second half when he performed two originals, when he played piano, too. “How Will I Say I Love You” left the audience collectively breathless, while “New Orleans Tango,” which closed the show, was uptempo, sexy and powerful. Both stood strong alongside two lead-ups, Tony’s own sultry jazzed-up orchestrations of Cindy Walker’s “You Don’t Know Me” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.”
Ms. Glover, for her part, is like diamonds on a stick, bright and sparkly, packing a real punch but selling it with a light touch, rich vocals and a sweetly winning smile. No wonder she’s a force on Broadway.
Their encore duet, an electric take on Nina Simone’s “New Day,” wasn’t nearly enough. This crowd wanted more, and I’d guess Tony, for one, was primed to give it.
Oh, and not for nothing: We’re waiting for the concert to begin and I realize: That’s Tedd Firth up there at the piano!
Yes, Tony’s Hudson Falls classmate and longtime friend Tedd Firth, now a hugely respected session pianist in New York, was the pianist on stage for almost all of the concert — unbilled, another local grad making good with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Chronicle asked, but hadn’t heard back by press time whether this was Tedd’s debut with the Phillys, too.
Tony gave him a shout-out, but Mr. Firth shies from the spotlight, and barely took a bow. Other familiars on stage were Tony’s sidemen and colleagues — the phenomenal Ed Decker on seven-string guitar and Steve Doyle on stand-up bass.
Mr. Decker and Tedd Firth had shining moments of their own, including back-and-forth solos on a ﬁne Burt Bacharach medley.
Maybe it’s no big deal for these pros, but I was pleased. They’re part of our Wood Theater family, too, here regularly for Tony’s annual homecoming shows at Thanksgiving. It’s energizing to see them, like Tony, get their props on one of our premiere Capital Region stages.
I’d guess most of the crowd was there for the program, not the local guy — just as it is when he plays New Orleans, San Francisco, around the country. Some of us were just enjoying the scene with a little more hometown heart than others.
Among those I ran into at the show: former Glens Falls mayor Vince DeSantis; Tom Ford and his son Doug; ARCC president Peter Aust and his wife, Noelle Granger; Community Theatre mavens, sisters Rene Clements and Jane Gibbs; a local theater trio of Sharon Reynolds, Vicky Eastwood and Phyllis Akins.
And, of course, Tony’s family — parents John and Louise DeSare, sister Trina and his ﬁance Daisy Florentino. Tony’s announcement on stage that he would be married “48 hours from now” brought huge applause. He dedicated the Spanish classic “Bésame Mucho” to his wife-to-be.
At ease with the crowd, Tony also pointed out where, exactly, in the balcony he’d sat as a young kid to hear Frank Sinatra so many years back, and how thrilled he was to be singing on this very stage at this moment.
From the rising cheers, I’d say not just the home crowd, but the rest of the audience, too, was equally won over — by fabulous Montego Glover, the evening’s inarguably fun program and our own remarkable Tony.