The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Jeff Tyzik, treated audiences this weekend to The Nat King Cole Songbook. Fans of the popular jazz crooner, who died in 1965, were not disappointed.
During the program’s first half, Denzal Sinclair sang many popular Cole tunes. His silky vocals echoed the romantic, soothing sound that made Cole a legendary hit-maker. After intermission, Sinclaire and Tyzik presented arrangements of an eclectic mix of songs.
After a brief introduction by Tyzik, the slender, bespectacled Sinclaire hit the stage, and the concert began with "Day In, Day Out." The orchestra initially overwhelmed Sinclaire’s voice, but by the second selection, "Walking My Baby Back Home," the finger-snapping Sinclaire hit his stride, and his voice took on the liquid quality that Cole fans came to hear.
Once Sinclaire performed the familiar "Mona Lisa," his unique persona and style came through. While his voice certainly echoes Cole’s, his delightful manner and humor charmed listeners. Sinclaire’s carefully enunciated rendition of "Nature Boy" was made even more powerful by the haunting orchestration of the string section arranged by Tyzik.
Sinclaire, a Canadian jazz singer, has performed onstage in the Nat King Cole tribute musical Unforgettable and in television and film. On the Meyerson Symphony Center stage, he demonstrated grace and humility, taking time to thank everyone associated with the concert.
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Sinclaire shared a little of his philosophy when he introduced “I’ve Got the World on a String" saying that "the string is awareness" and determines our outlook on life. He even made fun of himself after he told a silly dad joke. Especially attentive to his audience, Sinclaire asked questions and had fans spell out the letters when he performed "L. O. V. E." He was hopping and bouncing by the end of several numbers, and his enthusiasm was contagious.
Sinclaire pulled out a melodica for an upbeat version of "Route 66," and in the second half of the concert, he played a guitar on his arrangement of a beautiful, soulful song he discovered on YouTube.
Tyzik, a renowned pops conductor, proved his mastery of arranging music in surprising genre-bending ways. His orchestral rendition of "Always On My Mind" made the lyrics particularly compelling in a saxophone-heavy arrangement. The switched-up jazzy sound he chose for Phil Collins’ "Follow You Follow Me" made it sound fresh. His arrangement of "Lucky Day," spotlighting a jazzy trio of bass, piano and drums, was a highlight.
The DSO's Nat King Cole Songbook demonstrated that timeless lyrics can take on renewed meaning when sung by a gifted performer and that melodies can sound new again when heard in a different venue, style or arrangement.