From far (Sun City and beyond) and near (Bowie H.S. students,), the mature and the immature came Saturday night (May 1) to hear Steve Lippia channel the musical vibes of Frank Sinatra, a.k.a. “The Voice,” the “Lean Lark” and the “Croon Prince of Swing.” And the Connecticut native-cum-Las Vegas resident did just that . . . naturally.
My tin ear cannot attest to the “levels of ingenuity and intensity” that Rolling Stone once ascribed to “Old Blue Eyes,” but what an enjoyable trip down memory lane – even with one’s eyes open. Lippia’s homage to the “Groovy Galahad” was a well-paced 105 minutes and 21 songs. Yeah, songs filled with life’s vignettes, great storytelling, romance and lyrics you can understand, appreciate and remember.
I’m also pleased that this well-traveled warbler and Sinatra “interpreter “ – not imitator — gave ample recognition to the musical composers and arrangers who contributed to the “Svengali of Swing’s” enduring hits. Johnny Mercer, Nelson Riddle, et al.
Sinatra recorded more than 1,500 songs and this pleasing vocalist made good choices: “For Once in My Life,” “Summer Wind,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Luck Be A Lady” and “My Way.” And his rendition of “Let Me Try Again,” unfamiliar to me, certainly mirrored Sinatra’s succeed-fall down-get-up-again-succeed bigger life scenario.
Lippia has his own fans and following, of course, because he’s a consummate entertainer, replete with great pipes, nice tux, easily navigated web site (http://www.stevelippia.com/), and a disarming on-stage patter that was a blend of Music History 101 and his own personal life. And he worked – effortlessly, it seemed — at connecting with the Austin audience.
The Long Center is no smoky lounge. And the grand performance hall is no Vegas showroom. Thank goodness on both counts. No loud drunks and no audience jibes. But they took a shot at being a lounge and the small band on the grand veranda was a perfect backdrop to drinks and conversation before and after the show. The mild spring night and stunning view of the Austin skyline were incomparable.
Lippia was admirably backed by a tight 10-piece band that featured accomplished drummer Butch Miles, Texas State U. professor of drums in its Jazz Studies Program. Like many deeply experienced band members, he had played with such luminaries as Count Basie, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, to name just a few.
I’ve not heard the artist’s new CD, “Steve Lippia in Concert,” but I’m intrigued enough to want to know if he will step out of the comfortable Sinatra persona. If he does, will there be time. Twelve years after Lippia passes on, will there be another night at the Long with another amazing singer doing “Simply Lippia”?
Greater Austin Creative Alliance
Spicewood (Austin) TX USA