TONY DeSARE'S LAST FIRST KISS SHOWCASES FOUR DISTINCTIVE ORIGINALS AND NINE CLASSIC STANDARDS
Singer and pianist Tony DeSare releases Last First Kiss, his second Telarc recording, on January 23, 2007. The album is a passionate and romantic set that combines his distinctive songwriting with a refreshingly sophisticated and contemporary selection of songs – from Prince's "Kiss" and Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move" to classics like "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" and Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen's little known gem, "Come On Strong."
"Last First Kiss is more of a crossover, mainstream-sounding record," says DeSare. "I really do see it on par with the Diana Krall and Michael Bublé crowd. It's very accessible and crowd pleasing, but at the same time, I feel I was able to maintain a high level of musical integrity."
One thing that differentiates the ascending career of Tony DeSare from his contemporaries (think Jamie Cullum, Peter Cincotti and Michael Bublé) is his ability as a songwriter, something which is superbly showcased on Last First Kiss (CD-83651), the follow-up to his 2005 debut, Want You.
"I've always been inspired by great songwriters," says DeSare, whose vocal and instrumental style – sometimes sentimental, sometimes edgy, always intriguing – is a combination of classic songwriting style and modern pop sensibility. "I wanted this album to be sexy and stormy, which led to more originals, more bluesy elements." This is embodied by a rollicking take on the timeless standard "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You?" and its modern-day counterpart "I'll Never Have Enough of You," an original composition by DeSare. The title track, also penned by DeSare, is a heartfelt but contemporary-sounding romantic ballad that would fit perfectly on pop or adult standard radio.
It's this same versatile songcraft that lands DeSare squarely at the head of the class of the modern young crooners. "'Let's Just Stay In,' 'I'll Never Have Enough of You' and 'Lover's Lullaby' may sound classic," he says. "But when you listen to the lyrics, they're more like something that would be written today."
And then there are the equally fine covers, which blend seamlessly with the original compositions. DeSare says the inspiration to cover Prince's "Kiss" came to him in a New York City bar one night. "I thought 'What a cool song. Wouldn't it be great to try and re-imagine it?' It is stylistically so flexible that it works great in a jazz vein, which is the true mark of any great song." DeSare's light and playful reinvention will appeal to both fans of the original and jazz buffs. "The true test was playing my version for my die-hard Prince fan friends. So far, they all love it."
In a similar vein, "I Feel the Earth Move" – one of the cornerstones of Carole King's '70s smash album Tapestry – is heard here in a smoldering performance with a sensuous bossa nova rhythm. It is perhaps the first vocal jazz interpretation of the folk/pop classic.
Of course, DeSare expertly brings a fresh twist to several major pop standards. "They Can't Take That Away From Me," the well-known Gershwin tune, is sung with a verve and exuberance heard on few other recordings. "There Will Never Be Another You," from the prolific Depression-era pen of Harry Warren, is often taken at a brisk pace but here gets a delicate and soulful reading. With its simple piano accompaniment, DeSare's dark and brooding take on Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean" is perhaps the album's starkest track.
Whether the material is original or borrowed from other great songwriters, Last First Kiss is, in the end, all about Tony DeSare. "This album is more 'me,' more representative of who I am and my musical tastes," he says. "I take more risks in the song selection and the arrangements. It stretches the different colors in my voice. Although there are a lot of fun tracks, this one is more serious, with more minor keys and lush textures. I'm more aggressive with my piano playing, and I think it captures some of the energy of my live shows."
Last First Kiss also features the legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, keyboardist Tedd Firth, a horn section with Bob Malach and Harry Allen, tenor saxophones; Glenn Drewes, trumpet; and Keith O'Quinn, trombone (on four tracks), and DeSare's longtime sidemen Mike Lee on bass and Brian Czach on drums.
"I think Bucky's playing is better than ever, and he gave me some great ideas," DeSare says. "And my band has grown right along with me. They add so much. It's more that just reading the music, we really are a band now."
"I made the kind of record that I would want to buy," says DeSare. "I love this style of music – though it is generally regarded as an old style, to me it is new music."