Brian De Lorenzo

All About Love
Brian De Lorenzo Sings Unforgettable:
The Nat King Cole Songbook

Sculler's Jazz Club
Boston, MA
Back in the 1950s, television (like the nation) was defined in black & white – with the faces on air almost exclusively white – until a new variety show debuted in 1956. Now the most elegant man on television was Nat King Cole. With his buttery baritone and sophisticated manner, his appeal crossed age and race. This preteen was smitten immediately and I remain a Cole fan to this day.

Brian De Lorenzo’s smart show at Sculler’s Jazz Club offered an evening of songs made famous by the inimitable Cole. De Lorenzo put his own spin on the material. His voice, he pointed out, is nothing like Cole’s. For one thing, he’s a tenor, but what we soon discover is that the singers have meticulous phrasing and polished musicianship in common.

Some strange chemistry seemed to be at work at Sculler’s. When De Lorenzo sang, say, “Mona Lisa,” you admired his take on the song and at the same time could hear Cole’s version in your memory…and neither detracted from the other, a cerebral duet of sorts.

De Lorenzo managed to fit delightful historical details between the songs, like Cole’s competition with his idol, Earl “Fatha” Hines, when the two pianists joined a “Battle of the Bands” and Cole won, playing Hines’s signature song!

The hip Bill Duffy Quartet meshed seamlessly with De Lorenzo’s relaxed style, and the singer generously gave the musicians opportunities to show their stuff. With his consummate delivery, he (and Duffy’s playful piano) found the humor in Rodgers and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love,” and then made a novelty song like “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store)" sound profoundly romantic. His warm, velvety low notes in “When I Fall in Love” morphed into a sweet midsection, then floated off into the skies in the upper range. DeLorenzo knows how to put across a song!

The quartet knows their way around jazz. Ed Harlow blew a fine sax solo in Johnny Mercer/Rube Bloom’s “Day In, Day Out.” Percussionist Steve Rose added a brassy rat-a-tat-tat to “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” but the piece de resistance was De Lorenzo’s sorrowful, heartbreaking “Answer Me, My Love,” in which Keala Kaumeheiwa on bass supplied one solo verse, sounding like a cello weeping its lament.

You can’t have a Cole evening without “Unforgettable” – and since the De Lorenzo family has long performed together, Brian and his sister Elaine Spitz made many in the crowd swoon with pleasure. And it was unforgettable.

Beverly Creasey
Cabaret Scenes
March 13, 2013