BWW Reviews: Robert Davi - Vintage Music, Vintage Ambiance & Timeless Talent

"I have played behind Frank Sinatra all around the world and in the recording studios in Hollywood since 1959. Now along comes Robert Davi who, in my opinion, is the only one that comes close to having the voice, the acting chops, and the charisma that the Ol' Man had. Listen and become a life-long fan of this wonderful talent."

The speaker is percussionist Emil Richards who, at 81 is still playing choice gigs and, last week, was in the orchestra backing Robert Davi at Herb Alpert's Vibrato Grill Jazz. In just the last year or so, Robert Davi has become a regular at the Bel Air nightspot performing Davi Sings Sinatra.

Vibrato co-owner Eden Alpert says, "Robert always has a great, interesting turnout when he plays here." With a capacity of 135 people, Vibrato is the smallest of the venues in which Davi performs his show.

Last summer Davi played for 10,000 people outdoors at Eisenhower Park on Long Island, New York. He's performed for 2,000 people at once in arts centers across the country and to full houses at the Venetian and the Orleans in Las Vegas.

The audience at this show was made up of friends - including Gene Simmons, Shannon Tweed, Mickey Rourke, Billy Dee Williams - as well as several others who work in entertainment and those who have become friends by becoming fans and attending his performances. There were newcomers, too. Davi's audience spans the decades - from people born in the last decade of the last century to those who remember Sinatra singing with Tommy Dorsey. Many of the newcomers read about his show and, because they know him from films like The Goonies and Licence to Kill or his starring role on the NBC series Profiler, seek him out.

Robert Davi keeps it interesting for his regular audiences - people who attend whenever he's playing nearby - by changing elements of his set list. This time, he sang, among others, "How Little We Know," "Fly Me To The Moon," "The Best Is Yet To Come," I've Got You Under My Skin," "River, Stay Away From My Door" and 17 more songs. Each was beautifully performed, with precise enunciation and phrasing. Highlights included the quintessential Sinatra late-night bar song, "One For My Baby" and - a show highlight - his own recently released holiday recording, "New York City Christmas."

The above-mentioned orchestra playing with Davi included Emil Richards, who worked with Sinatra on vibes from 1959 on; Davi's musical director Randy Waldman, who works with Streisand and George Benson among others, was on piano. Mitch Holder, was on guitar; Dave Tull on drums; Tom Saviano sax and flute and Cooper Appleit played bass. Also there with Davi was Chris Walden, the composer-arranger who has, it seems, worked with everyone - Bieber, Streisand, Ethridge, Anka, Aguilera, Bocelli, Bublé, David Foster, a score of symphonic and philharmonic orchestras, several big bands and producers. He arranged and conducted "New York City Christmas" and at Vibrato played the flugelhorn. He says of of the singer whom he had play with his big band, "Robert Davi's performance was reminiscent of the era of great torch singers and crooners. His ability to capture the essence of a song and convey it to the audience is extraordinary. "

Opening for Davi was comic Bobby Slayton. Hilariously funny, smart, quick and known as "The Pitbull of Comedy," Slayton seems to hold nothing sacred. His comedy is full of stories about his wife, jabs at gay people and minorities. On the other hand, he appears to be a nice, accommodating guy. He even brought Davi a cup a tea when the latter was onstage. I am not sure how to best compliment a comic but Bobby Slayton deserves the best compliment possible. Having seen him several times before, his presence at Davi's show was, for me, a terrific surprise.

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