In his Gotham club debut, Danny Aiello displayed an appealing mix of dash and swagger. At pre-Valentine’s Day Sunday evening gig, the actor tested the waters and hawked his new CD, “I Just Wanted to Hear the Words.” A musically adept, firmly controlled baritone, Aiello paid tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes and Bobby Darin, and even gave a nod to Latin American crooner Andy Russell with a lilting take on “Besame mucho.”
An unabashed romantic, the film and stage veteran recalled an aborted 1948 audition for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, singing “All of Me.” Warning the aud that he is out to kill and would take no prisoners, Aiello was clearly having a ball. He serenaded the women sitting up front with “You Made Me Love You,” and tossed a warming serenade to his wife with Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.”
Despite a few shaky notes, the 71-year-old actor offered an amiable perf, playfully toying with a few lyrics but remaining loyal to song structures and intentions. Strolling through the timeworn pages of the Great American Songbook, Aiello reached as far back as 1910 for a standard later adopted by legendary saloon singer Sophie Tucker, “Some of These Days.” His gutsy take turned the old war-horse into a rousing warning to a woman who just might have a touch of wanderlust.
With calming assurance he warned his listeners not to fear what might lie ahead, speaking the words of the verse to Depression hymn “Pennies From Heaven.” Singing the refrain, he referenced the relaxed, polished art of Crosby crooning. The Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer barroom lament “One for My Baby” was a tippler’s homage to Sinatra, while a closing medley of “Beyond the Sea” and “Clementine” was a warm tribute to Darin.
Aiello was boosted by an octet that boasted a big-band thrust, and was heightened by the fervent trombone solos of Brad Shigeta and the clean trumpet lines of Mike Hashin. Drummer and frontman Joe Geary fueled the band and gave it its drive.
Aiello will take his bag of good ol’ evergreens uptown for a three-day turn at Feinstein’s at the Regency beginning March 16.