The evening was warm, the crickets in full voice, the pavilion almost filled, the lawn covered with bodies, blankets, bottles and baskets, sounds wafting from the big band musicians, melodic words, and a spoken and sung pleasant voice entertaining and educating. It was the program, “Michael Feinstein A Big Band Tribute to Frank Sinatra” at the beautiful Blossom Center.
Diminutive Michael Feinstein’s musical career started at age 5 in Columbus, Ohio. The young Michael started to play piano by ear, developed into a piano bar celeb, came to New York, was introduced to Ira Gershwin, composer of “I Got Rhythm,” “Love is Here to Stay,” and “’Swonderful,” became his assistant for six years, met the elite of the music business, and transformed himself into “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook.”
Feinstein has transcribed, arranged, catalogued and performed a vast collection of American musical standards. His personal connection with such musical greats as Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis Jr., Cole Porter and Liza Minnelli opened the door to a knowledge of music that turned him into an anthropologist and archivist. In 2007 he founded the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, dedicated to celebrating the art musical form and preserving it through educational programs, competitions, and making the songs available to the public.
Feinstein, who has won two Emmy Awards, is also a song stylist who presents over 200 shows each year.
You don’t go to a Feinstein concert to hear imitations of the singers whose songs he presents, but to hear the compositions presented in the style of those artists. You don’t go expecting a performer who captivates the audience like Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler or Edina Menzel. You go to hear a pleasant evening of personal tales, revealing information, and classic songs.
His July 18, 2015 Blossom concert was a tribute to Frank Sinatra. Feinstein revealed how he met and became friends with “old blue eyes.” How Sinatra was instrumental in expanding the young man’s musical contacts, and personal stories about the man who is considered to be one of the greatest interpreters of American songs.
Starting with “Luck be a Lady” from the musical, “Guys and Dolls,” to probably Sinatra’s mantra, “New York, New York,” the evening flowed easily from song to song, from tale to tale. There was humor, pathos, name dropping and a little gossip.
Songs included “Time After Time,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” which was written as a waltz, but was reinterpreted by Sinatra, and “It’s Alright With Me.” Other songs were “Just One of Those Things,” which Feinstein indicated Sinatra viewed as the saddest lyrics ever written, and “Night and Day, “one of the great man’s favorites. Others presented were “Someday,” “My Kind of Town,” written specifically for Sinatra by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn for inclusion in “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” and “Fools Rush In,” the kind of song which was sung with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of Scotch in the other. “All the Way” was followed by a medley of songs from the Sinatra songbook including “Come Fly With Me,” “It’s Witchcraft,” and “I’ve Got the World on a String.”
The appreciative crowd gave Feinstein a much deserved standing ovation and left humming their favorite song from the encyclopedia of music they had just heard.
Future pop Blossom presentations include:
“Broadway Divas,” a program including songs from “Wicked,” “Les Miz,” “Cabaret,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Chicago.” (August 2)
“The British Invasion: The Music of the Beatles, The Stones, The Who,” and more. (August 16)
“Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis” (August 29)
For tickets to these and other Blossom concerts call 216-231-1111 or 800-686-1141, go the Severance Hall Ticket Office, or Blossom Box Office, or go online to http://www.clevelandorchestra.com