His commanding voice often begins with a light and an expected approach to these often very familiar songs and then veer off into surprisingly much deeper tones and shift back and forth. Like the artist he emulates, Mr. Malavet is a master of phrasing as well as a charismatic vocalist. He is also a highly engaging entertainer making great use of his marvelously expressive face. He wears a cool suit and for one number puts on a fedora. With strategically used blackouts, dimness, and brightness, the show’s lighting achieves compelling visual effects that convey the moods of the songs.
This year marks Frank Sinatra’s centennial and this celebratory concert covers the peak years of 1939 to 1968, when he recorded most of the songs that he is known for. The seventeen numbers performed in the show are a glorious and encapsulating selection of classics and rarities.
“He was the poet laureate of loneliness” remarks Mr. Malavet and that quality is well explored. “I’m A Fool to Want You,” recalls Sinatra’s troubled marriage to Ava Gardner and is given an aching and empathic rendition. “The mother of all saloon songs,” “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” becomes a dramatic epic. All of the depth of “Night and Day” is captured. The sense of loss in “Summer Wind” is so richly rendered. “All or Nothing At All,” with its haunting melody and mournful lyrics, is particularly striking and is the powerful finale.
“I’ve Got You under My Skin,” “I’ve Got The World on a String,” and “Let’s Fall in Love” are all performed with their requisite swinging joyousness. “Once I Loved” is a great choice to note Sinatra’s monumental work with Antônio Carlos Jobim.
Malavet also occasionally reads from “my cheat sheet,” a lowered music stand that had biographical material that is artfully woven into the show. The Hoboken years, the early adoration of Bing Crosby, the titanic career rise, fall and comeback, the importance of arranger Nelson Riddle, “They brought out the best in each other,” and the creation of Reprise Records in 1961 are among the facts mentioned.
“He is my Nelson Riddle,” says Malavet of John di Martino, the excellent arranger, musical director and accomplished pianist. The comparison was apt as during portions of the performance the sound is very reminiscent of those fabled recordings, transmitting their essence without copying the actual arrangements. Mr. di Martino’s efforts combine with the sensational work of Boris Kozlov on bass, Shinnosuke Takahashi on drums, and James Chirillo on guitar make for superior musicianship.
“There are many Frank Sinatra tribute shows this year but mine is the best,” deadpans Mr. Malavet with the timing and mock bravado Sinatra himself employed in his concerts. “He left quite a legacy.”
Richard Malavet -“Very Good Years: The Intimate Sinatra” (July 10 & 24, August 27 & 28, 2015)
The Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, in Manhattan
For reservations, call 212-206-0440 or visit http://www.metropolitanroom.com
Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission