Backed by a small but crackling orchestra augmented by a lush nine-piece string section, veteran crooner Vic Damone announced to a devoted capacity audience that he was going to sing his heart out. That he did, with considerable verve and more, in a concert that marked the kickoff of his farewell tour set to wind up at Carnegie Hall next year on May 18. Vowing to hang up his tonsils before the public has a chance to say “he should quit,” the singer proved he can still serenade, swing and, most of all, belt ’em out with appealing savvy.
The Brooklyn-born crooner–72 years old come June 12 — has taken good care of the pipes Sinatra once labeled “the best in the business.” The voice has strength and enveloping warmth, and he can still hit a big note square. He phrases with confident awareness of the melody and confronts a lyric with a rare knowingness.
Over the years the singer has developed a remarkably warm relationship with his audience, trading quips and sharing the memories of a 50-year career with a genial grace and a show of sincere appreciation.
Following a formidable and mildly pleasing opening trio of songs, Damone settled into Vernon Duke’s “April in Paris,” which he invested with bite and an aggressive bounce and accented with a hot, barking growl. It was a fresh new approach to a postcard picture glance at Paree, and Russ Kasoff flourished his piano solo with a crisp and bold attack.
From his most recent Q&M Enterprise CD, “Greatest Love Songs of the Century,” Damone curled his ardent tones around a couplet of ’40s romantic film tunes, “I Should Care” and “My Foolish Heart.”
Damone devotes a large portion of his concert to the memory of Sinatra, his pal and mentor. Five of the eight Sinatra-related tunes stemmed from the Nelson Riddle sessions gathered for the 1960 Capitol session that became the “Nice and Easy” album, and they are the centerpiece of the evening.
Not only a testimony to Sinatra, the Riddle arrangements have a life all of their own; they framed Damone in a flattering tribute to the singer, the song and their composers and lyricists. From the Gershwins’ “I’ve Got a Crush on You” and Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean” to Richard Whiting’s “She’s Funny That Way,” Damone brought the stately songs to a high level of romanticism and unerring good taste.
But the peak came with “Mam’selle” — revealing the candlelit torchy intimacy of the Mack Gordon lyric — and the landmark and definitive Riddle arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”. Swinging hard and cradled with an enveloping punch from the band, Damone displayed not only the Sinatra legacy of saloon singing, but his own sonorous contribution to the art.