DENZAL Sinclaire has a voice built for ballads, for love songs, for the American Songbook, and that voice won the hearts of an appreciative audience Sunday afternoon as the Canadian singer performed the middle of three weekend concerts with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra.
Songs such as Our Love Is Here To Stay, Cheek To Cheek and The Very Thought Of You are timeless, and perfect choices for a Valentine-themed concert called My One And Only Love.
But the greatest songs in the world still need a strong, adept singer to interpret the lyrics and a crack band to build the instrumental platform. Sinclaire and the WJO were that match for an afternoon show covering 16 tunes, with the exception of a couple of spots in the first half when the big band overpowered the singer.
Whether it was George Gershwin (Our Love Is Here To Stay), Stevie Wonder (Happier Than the Morning Sun) or the band Genesis (Follow You Follow Me), Sinclaire nailed the song.
A highlight was the title song, coincidently the name of a 2006 Sinclaire CD, and a great showcase for the singer's honeyed voice. That and Nature Boy, both arranged by WJO trombonist Jeff Presslaff, set off the combined talents of the band and singer.
Nature Boy, which Sinclaire described as a favourite ballad, had haunting horns behind Sinclaire and a wonderful section with voice accompanied by bass trombone and trumpet.
The arrangement was originally done for a smaller group performing a tribute to baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff, but Presslaff rearranged it so well for the big band to perform with Sinclaire.
Sinclaire joined a high school vocal group, Garden City Groove, in a rendition of You Make Me Feel So Young and the students sang I Love Being Here With You by themselves in a well-orchestrated, jazzy vocal outing.
Route 66, the Bobby Troup classic, hardly qualifies as a Valentine's Day love song, but the arrangement by WJO artistic director and trumpeter Richard Gillis was a great forum for Sinclaire, who sang the song beautifully and had a little fun with the lyrics.
That up-tempo tune was to be the show-closer, but Sinclaire did I've Got the World on a String as an encore, backed only by the rhythm section of pianist Will Bonness, bassist Gilles Fournier and drummer Rob Siwik, and trombonist Brad Shigeta. The spare instrumentation really let the song stand out in comparison to the concert's big-band repertoire, and Sinclaire really shone in the smaller group.