Tony Desare – Talk of the Town

by Christine Wiese

Talk about your Great Expectations unexpectedly coming to fruition! Tony DeSare certainly filled that bill at The Clausen Center in Holstein last Saturday night. The man is not just a rising star; he is halfway to becoming a super nova. The critics call Tony DeSare a neo-traditionalist. That’s a fancy way of saying he and his band are the embodiment of the pendulum swinging back to when entertainment was more civilized; more elegant; more debonaire. Back before grunge and pyrotechnics and tattooed bodies took over the nation’s stages.

People in the audience that night described his musicality in words of three syllables – exquisite, fabulous, perfection. It is all that and more. Nobody but nobody can sing the words “kiss” or “love” the way he does. It may sound hackneyed but the man puts his heart and soul into his music. As one person said, “He doesn’t have to embrace the audience because what he does embraces them.”. This sentiment was amply evident during his interpretation of the Ray Charles hit “You Don’t Know Me”. It was heart stopping. People had to remind themselves to breathe. It was as if there were only one focal point in the universe and that point was up on stage. For that brief bit of time, the entertainer and the entertained became one.

Then there was DeSare’s own composition of “New Orleans Tango” – hot, steamy, mesmerizing. Creole to the core. These were interspersed with lighter moments like Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano” which brought smiles all round and a piece he called “The Saber Dance Boogie” – a song everybody knows and has heard a million times but could never put a name to. It rollicked and frolicked and nearly brought the house down. “Seventeen Versions of Jingle Bells” was flat out amazing. From the plonked out piano lesson rendition through ragtime, polka, waltz, Spanish, Jewish, Bob Dylan, and all the rest. Who would ever have thought such a simple tune could go through so many transmutations?

Later they ripped through Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” complete with foot on keyboard and ended the show with Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train”. It was truly a wonderful evening. This group is so easy and so comfortable with their music and they perform it so smoothly that it belies all the hard work and effort that must have gone before. It’s like heavy cream slipping into coffee ground from dark roasted Arabica beans. The sweet and the strong meld together to make the most mellow treat imaginable. Kudos to the Foundation for finding theses guys and bringing them to town.