Tags: Robert | Davi | Sinatra | Tribute

His Way; Robert Davi Hits a High Note with Sinatra Tribute

Image: His Way; Robert Davi Hits a High Note with Sinatra Tribute Robert Davi

Tuesday, 02 Jul 2013 10:29 PM

By Nick Vallelonga

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"As FS would say, 'Koo, Koo.' I have never heard anyone come this close to Sinatra's sound — and still be himself. Many try, but Robert Davi has the voice, tone, the flavor and the swagger. What a surprise. He absolutely touched me down to my soul and brought back the essence and sound of 'Ol Blue Eyes himself.” — Quincy Jones

Nick Vallelonga's Perspective: Quincy Jones is a musical genius. Quincy Jones has worked with most of the greatest artists in the history of recorded music.

In the quote above, Quincy Jones is comparing Robert Davi to arguably the most important recording artist and performer of the Twentieth Century, Frank Sinatra. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot to live up to.

If I were Robert Davi, I'm not even sure I would welcome that comparison. Based on Quincy Jones' quote, audiences coming to see Davi perform are going to expect to see and hear " . . . the voice, tone, the flavor and the swagger" of Frank Sinatra.

How could anybody live up to that? As Jones also points out, "Many try . . ." and as we know, unfortunately, pretty much all fall short. But in this case, I am happy to report, Robert Davi exceeds all expectations.

I don't know if I can top Quincy Jones, but Robert Davi deserves all the accolades he can get. I first became aware of Robert Davi as an actor. His first claim to fame came when he was cast opposite his idol Frank Sinatra in the television movie, "Contract on Cherry Street."

He went on to work in films and act alongside Marlon Brando, Danny Glover, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Roberto Benigni.

During this time he turned in many memorable performances; As one of the notorious Fratelli Brothers in the hugely successful kids film, "The Goonies"; As FBI Agent Johnson in "Die Hard"; And when he joined an elite group as one of the greatest Bond Villains ever, with his portrayal of Central American Drug Lord Sanchez in The James Bond film, "License to Kill." He then went on to huge success playing good-guy FBI Agent Bailey Malone in the hit NBC series, "The Profiler."

As an actor, he always stood out to me, I always remembered him whenever I saw him in a film or on TV. He was that guy, that guy with the face you could never forget. He had a swagger about him, a cool toughness that was a throwback to actors from a distant era; James Cagney, Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart . . . Bogart.

That’s who he always reminded me of. I used to think he was this generation’s Humphrey Bogart. I thought he was under-used. Every time I saw him in something, I used to wonder why he wasn’t in more films.

I wanted to see what he would do next. He was that kind of actor to me. Someone I enjoyed watching and wanted to see more of.

He was a throwback, but in a good way. A man’s man. As far as I’m concerned, there’s not enough like him. Maybe that’s why after "The Profiler," he seemed to disappear for a while. He always was, and is, an actor with presence, depth and strength, and they just weren’t writing many roles for a man like him anymore.

That’s why I when I heard that Davi had recorded an album, I was happy and curious. "Davi Sings Sinatra — On The Road To Romance" was recorded in the Capitol Records building, in the same studio Frank Sinatra recorded many of his classic songs.

It featured a 30-piece orchestra, and was produced by legendary producer Phil Ramone.

Davi wasn’t fooling around here. This was serious stuff. How the hell was he going to pull this off? Another actor claiming to be a singer. And in this case, taking on one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music.

I figured he was going to get ripped apart by the critics, thrown to the dogs. His voice, his arrangements, his performance, were all going to be compared and judged against the standard that is Frank Sinatra. Why would he do this? Why would he set himself up for the ridicule that would come for even attempting something like this?

This could be nothing but a lose-lose situation for him, I thought. 'BUT THEN I LISTENED TO THE ALBUM . . . WOW . . . The album is magnificent. Beautiful, inspiring . . . The production, the arrangements . . . and The Voice . . . Again . . . Wow . . .  he did it.'

Any comparisons to Sinatra are all great ones. How can you compare anyone to Sinatra? Only if the performer is excellent. If this was not an era of rap music and fake boy bands, Robert Davi’s debut album would be on top of the charts.

This is what real music is and is supposed to be about. It’s a masterpiece in it’s own right.

Frank Sinatra would be proud that someone this talented would do such an incredible homage to him, and to the songs and music that shall forever be known as The Great American Song Book.

Davi is taking us back here, teaching a history class on popular music. His choices of songs and his interpretations are brilliant. There should have been Grammy recognition for this CD. I could go on and on reviewing this, but this is supposed to be a review of Davi performing live. So all I can say about the CD is, I’ll bet you haven’t heard anything this good in a long, long, time. So go get it and listen. And enjoy.

When I heard that Robert Davi was going to be performing the CD live, I knew I had to go see him. I heard he was doing it with the full orchestra behind him. I heard he was selling out the showroom at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch any of those shows. I finally heard that he would be playing an intimate venue, Vibrato, with a six-piece band behind him. I bought my tickets and with great anticipation, went to the show.

The Vibrato is an old school supper club featuring live music. A perfect place to see Davi perform. The lights went down, the band started, and then, from the moment I heard Davi’s voice, I felt like I was transported back to another era and time, a time when I was a kid and my father used to take me with him to work at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City.

The world famous nightclub that was featured in the famous scene in "Goodfellas." It was there that I was fortunate to see great acts like Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett and Tom Jones.

I had also seen Frank Sinatra several times, a couple times in Atlantic City is a small intimate room much like the Copa, when he did a farewell tour with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.

These were special shows by special men with incredible talent that came from a special era. They made you feel like you were witnessing something that you would never see the likes of again. Tough, real men, who played tough guys on screen, but who could also show you a lonely vulnerable side while interpreting a lyric and a song.

Big men, idols to millions, who at their best in that intimate small setting, made you realize they were just like you, with the same hopes and dreams, accomplishments and disappointments, baring their souls as they sang about loves won and lost.

I was having that same feeling watching Davi perform. Davi and his band, which sounded like a full orchestra behind him, were flawless. Yes, Davi does sound a lot like Sinatra, a huge compliment, but he brings his own style and personality to the songs. Great classic songs, with lyrics that demand you listen.

Davi feels every word, you can tell he cares and connects to what he' singing about. The up-tempo songs were great fun, the audience swinging, swaying and singing along with Davi. And the ballads, the saloon songs, where you could hear a pin drop while Davi sang them, were heart breakingly good.

I think that the fact that Davi is an amazing actor as well, brings a lot to his performance of these songs. He becomes the characters that are singing about love and broken hearts. He talks to the audience, engages them, tells great stories, and at one point, when he talks about our American troops and then sings What America Means to Me, he brings tears to your eyes and makes your heart swell with pride for our great country.

What Davi is doing with this show is, I fear, going to become a lost art. There are not many out there doing it anymore. This is a must see. This is a man who has taken all of his life experience and put it into these songs, and their interpretation in an intimate setting, live on a stage.

I urge you to get his CD, and if you hear that he's playing live anywhere near you, I urge you to see this show. He has taken the past and made it present and relevant. He has taken what was first an homage to an idol, and turned it into something that is all his own.

He has become what I think he was always meant to be: A saloon singer. And there’s nobody out there doing this better than him. There’s no reason to compare what he’s doing to anyone else anymore. It may sound cliché, but throughout his long career, he’s faced it all, he stands tall, and he’s now doing it His Way.

Nick Vallelonga developed his cinematic visions at an early age - at twelve years old he appeared in the wedding scenes of The Godfather. He studied acting in New York with highly acclaimed teachers and appeared in many off-Broadway productions, as well as films and television.



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