A night to remember

Acclaimed jazz vocalist Tony DeSare will return to Williamsport to present an evening of big band music, in collaboration with the Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra, at 7:30 p.m. April 16 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

A ‘natural entertainer’

In an interview with the Sun-Gazette, DeSare described his childhood as filled with a love for music.

“My dad would play guitar and sing the Beatles and James Taylor and The Eagles,” he said, and the effect of hearing live music in his house led young DeSare to start playing violin when he was 8 years old. He continued the violin all through school and added piano at age 10.

“I fell in love with the song ‘The Entertainer’ and I practiced and practiced until I could play it,” DeSare recalled.

Next, he fell in love with “Rhapsody in Blue,” and practiced until he could play that song, too. He started singing at age 15, but “never planned on being famous or the center of attention.” DeSare’s friends always wanted him to play and perform in public, and as he did that more often, it slowly changed his life. At the age of 17, he did a show that received a lot of local attention, and before he knew it, he was playing shows with greater frequency.

“I went to college (not for music, but I was involved in the music program there), and I started doing concerts on campus,” DeSare said. He decided he needed to give music a shot. After graduation, he moved to New York City, and just when he thought he would give up, he got a gig at the Marriott Marquee overlooking Times Square and was suddenly playing five nights a week in Manhattan. Before long, he was cast as understudy in an off-Broadway musical about Frank Sinatra, which led him into the cabaret world.

“I learned a lot about how to give a show and work a room of any size. I really learned how to entertain,” DeSare said.

In 2005, his demo record helped DeSare land a record deal, and he started to be more of a global performer, traveling the world.

“It’s been an amazing life; I’ve met tons of people I never thought I’d meet. I’ve performed in places that I never thought I would go,” DeSare said, “I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love.”

DeSare and the Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra

William Ciabattari, director of bands at Lycoming College and founding member of the Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra, credits former CAC director Rob Steele for bringing the WCJO and Tony DeSare together.

“Rob loved jazz and big band music. He always wanted to support the WCJO, and he reached out to DeSare to set something up,” Ciabattari said.

Because both DeSare and the WCJO are professional musicians, the rehearsal format will be a whirlwind on April 16. “This is a professional schedule,” Ciabiattari explained. “We rehearse the day of the concert, playing everything down for a couple of hours, then we will take a break and come back to do the concert.”

And DeSare loves playing with a high-quality big band like the WCJO. “As great as recording can be,” DeSare said, “a recording cannot capture the experience of live musicians.” DeSare has performed with over 60 orchestras all over the world. He is bringing a guitarist who plays a seven-string guitar to add to the band, but as DeSare said, “The great thing about jazz musicians is that you don’t need a history together. The music is a language of its own. You have good charts and good songs, and it works.”

A night to remember

The music for the concert was selected by DeSare and mailed to the WCJO for preparation. Audience members can expect a authentic big band experience: “We are going to cover the last 100 years of popular music,” DeSare said. “But, I like to explore each era in my own way, not like a cover band.”

The audience will be treated to everything from Cole Porter to Bruce Springsteen and Prince. “For example,” DeSare said, “the song ‘Kiss’ by Prince, but with a Count Basie-style arrangement.”

Those nights spent in the cabarets of NYC have not been wasted, by any means. DeSare is a true entertainer who emphasizes great music and delights with his sonorous voice, and he also talks and jokes with the audience, telling them stories about his experiences as a professional musician, “Like the time Paul McCartney happened to see one my shows; I love to tell stories.”

Carla Fisher, director of marketing and creative design at the CAC, is understandably excited about this upcoming concert. “This season, we asked our patrons to take a chance on us as we present big talent on our stage,” Fisher said as she described the event as “a big band concert like never before seen on our stage.”

DeSare views each of his performances as a chance to provide the “privilege of focusing on the music and moment. We all have these things that we have going on in our lives, and what I hope to give to the audience as a gift is the ability to let that stuff go and experience this time together.” The gift the audience gives back to DeSare is that same experience: “I can be present with them for the time of the show, no matter where I am. It’s a primal human need to gather and experience music together, or entertain each other. How many thousands of years have people been gathering? It’s not the same to sit at home at watch it on TV. To be together, breathing the same air – It’s almost a meditation on music that I get to lead.”

For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.caclive.com.