Vocalist Tony Ziesat explains that his latest album, with pianist Stef Scaggiari, is titled Standing Ovations! because its nine songs “have struck a resonant chord in audiences during my live performances over the years.” Many of those performances took place at Germano’s, the Little Italy restaurant which often featured jazz and which, like so many others, did not survive the Covid pandemic.
Three of the album’s songs – “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “All the Way,” and “Come Fly With Me” – are closely identified with Frank Sinatra. Ziesat’s style bears some resemblance to “Old Blue Eyes” – his spot-on articulation of melody and lyrics, a precise sense of time, his spirited sense of swing, and his great delivery. But Ziesat’s vocal quality and style often come closer to that of Broadway musical singers than to Sinatra or jazzier vocalists.
One of the most pleasurable aspects of this album is that Ziesat includes the verses to two classics from the Great American Songbook – Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” and Harold Arlen’s and “Yip” Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow.” Verses were the segments that introduced so many songs in Broadway musicals, films and some pop songs but were often deleted on records and later performances. They were frequently gems which equaled or even surpassed the melodies we know and love. Ziesat also includes the verse to “The Shadow of Your Smile,” the theme from the 1965 film The Sandpiper.
Demonstrating his linguistic skills, Ziesat sings three songs at least partly in languages other than English – “O Sole Mio” in Italian, “The Shadow of Your Smile” in Spanish, and “Never On Sunday” in Greek.
The only song I have not mentioned is “When You Wish Upon a Star,” the 1940 Academy Award winner from the Disney animated film Pinocchio. Ziesat’s marvelous performance makes me wonder why we have not heard this song from more artists over the years.
Whether singing swing, ballads or bossa nova, Ziesat really knows how to get a song across. I can easily understand how these nine songs were audience favorites. Not only vocalists, but horn players too, could benefit from paying close attention to his presentation.
Stef Scaggiari, an excellent jazz pianist, excels in the role of accompanist, and my only disappointment with Standing Ovations! Is that he isn’t given a larger role on the album.
Search for “Tony Ziesat” and “Standing Ovations!” and you will discover several sources for purchasing either the CD or mp3 downloads.
–By Bob Jacobson
Bob Jacobson, former Vice President of the BJA, plays saxophone and clarinet and leads combos “Sounds Good” and “Swing ‘n’ Samba.” He has written numerous articles for the BJA newsletter.