|JOEL BENJAMIN, Times Square Chronicals - Sept. 9, 2012
Some performers pay lip service homage to other artists by merely strolling coolly through their repertoire unaffected. For Frank Dain, his The Magic of Mathis has clearly entered his psyche, leading him to find different timbres in his voice. He held some notes longer, added some honey to his light baritonein other words, he allowed these songs to affect his interpretation.
The program featured just about every Mathis classic, opening with a little overture, played by Dain's Musical Director Kathleen Landis and bassist Saadi Zain, which included tantalizing hints of "Maria" and "Tonight" from West Side Story.
"Misty" (Erroll Garner/Johnny Burke) and "Stranger in Paradise" (Borodin/Wright & Forrest) were a seemingly odd combination of opening songs, yet Dain's conversational approach found similarities in the songs. "Chances Are" (Robert Allen/Al Stillman) was a finger-snappingly jazzy version, peppered with subtle bass playing, not the usual expansive ballad. Dain's "99 Miles from L.A." (Albert Hammond/Hal David) was tense, with his band joining in for harmonic emphasis.
Throughout the show, Dain told lovely vignettes about Mathis, including his home life, which inspired Dain to sing "Yellow Roses on Her Gown" (Michael Moore) a sentimental look at a happy family whose happiness goes into an inevitable decline. Dain was quite touching. In the same vein was "Photograph" (Dori Caymmi/Tracy Mann), a tender song about a long-ago love.
Dain didnít take all the songs so seriously. On "Wild Is the Wind" (Dimitri Tiomkin/Ned Washington), his bassist provided some modestbut funnywind sounds, which, along with an echo chamber effect, knocked that song down a peg or two.
The combination of Dain's intense honesty and love of the material made The Magic of Mathis a joy. His director, Lennie Watts, knew how to balance narration with song and how to keep dramatic and musical interest from flogging. And, Ms. Landis' expert and witty arrangements gave each song a distinctive feel.
This was a chance to re-examine Johnny Mathisí fifty-six year career and hear Frank Dain at his best.
|ROY SANDER, BistroAwards.com - Sept. 26, 2012
Though in recent years he could be found from time to time as a guest vocalist in various spots around town, this engagement marks Frank Dain's first solo show in thirteen years. His return has been eagerly anticipatedóand judging by the packed house at the Metropolitan Room, not just by me but by scores of people.
For the occasion, Dain has chosen to pay tribute to Johnny Mathis. Directed by Lennie Watts, and with accompaniment by musical director Kathleen Landis on piano and Saadi Zain on bass, the show is called "The Magic of Mathis." Mathis's magic lies mainly in his voicethat singular, unforgettable, almost-other-wordly, hauntingly beautiful sound. While Mathis respects lyrics, his greatness stems not from a penetrating exploration of the words, but from the eloquence of what he does with the music. Though Dain's voice is occasionally evocative of Mathis's, in no way does he attempt impersonation. Nor does he adopt Mathis's approach; rather, he adheres to the cabaret, rather than the pop aesthetic and pays particular emphasis on the meaning of the lyric.
Dain's approach is especially effective on the program's more obscure material, songs that Mathis has sung but that are not indelibly associated with him in all of our minds. There are three reasons this choice works so well in these instances: (1) done well, lyric exploration generally provides a richer experience; (2) these songs warrant this approach; and (3) the memory of Mathis's renditions does not get in the way of our appreciation of what Dain is doing. Michael Moore's "Yellow Roses on Her Gown" is a lovely song about remembering happier times, and Dain's heartfelt performance is unadorned and touching. He does a fine job with Tracy Mann and Dory Caymmi's rueful "Photograph," and he delivers a dramatic interpretation of Hal David and Albert Hammond's "99 Miles from L.A." though he needs to be careful about indicating emotions too obviously through facial expression. And his simple declaration of love-readiness in Bart Howard's "I'll Be Easy to Find" is very appealing.
The results with Mathis's greatest hits are more uneven. "Chances Are" (Al Stillman, Robert Allen) is performed more snappily than Mathis does, which deprives the song of its romance; more's the pity, for the song follows immediately Dain's assertion that Mathis is "the premier balladeer of all times." At the other end of the tempo spectrum, Stillman and Allen's "It's Not for Me to Say" is done slower and more deliberately, which undermines the music's lushness; if this were picked up a bit, we'd have both the attractiveness of the music and the insight of Dain's reading as we do with his wonderful interpretation of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster's "A Certain Smile." Landis and Zain have devised a brooding, passionate arrangement for "Wild Is the Wind" (Ned Washington, Dimitri Tiomkin), and Dain tries to match the drama in his vocal rendition; however, he doesn't or, perhaps, doesn't yet get there. But he does a sweet, sweet job on Jerry Livingston and Paul Francis Webster's "The Twelfth of Never." (I should mention that most of the arrangements are by Landis and Dain.)
There are a few other things that should be worked on. On "Let Go (Canto De Ossanha)" by Baden Powell and Vinicius DeMoraes, with English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, Dain does a fair job of conveying the struggle between the opposing forces of holding back and letting go, but he's not quite convincing. With "The Island" (Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins, English lyrics by the Bergmans), he needs to be steamier, more internally sensual. And in Sherman Edwards and Ben Raleigh's "Wonderful! Wonderful!" the bridge suddenly switches to a rolling rhythm, which is at odds with the romantic sensibility of the rest of the arrangement and throws the mood off. But this is a new show and I saw only its second outing, so...
|ELIZABETH AHLFORS, Cabaret Scenes - Oct. 22, 2011
At Nino’s Tuscany in midtown Manhattan, Kathleen Landis and Frank Dain show you how it’s done. Nino’s is a popular eatery with an active bar, a piano placed awkwardly between the reservation desk and the coat check, and waiters weaving around the performers to fill orders.
The challenge is handled with musicality, poise and a sense of humor. At one point, as the decibel level reached its apex, Dain wryly began the soft opening lines of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" (English lyrics by Gene Lees) with its droll, “floating on the silence that surrounds us.” He was backed by Landis’s sexy bossa nova piano rhythms. While many appreciated the tongue-in-cheek moment, one couple was so overwhelmed by the song’s sensuality that they stood up to slow-dance against the wall. During Dain’s “Summer Wind,” a waiter parked his food cart a few feet away and began whisking up a zabaglione. As the whisking reached frenzy level, Dain smoothly stepped back, letting Landis’s piano take over. Only in New York, folksthe fun of a ballad and a brouhaha.
Dain has a charismatic smile, charm, and understands the heart of his songs. His mellow delivery is never melodramatic. A warm vibrato accents the nostalgia in ballads like “Autumn Leaves.” Reminiscent of Johnny Matthis, he delivers several Matthis classics, adding a tangible sensitivity. “Moon River” reflects thoughtful meditation and “Wild Is the Wind” is outstanding, controlled with a soft urgency reaching for the release of passion. The subtlety and emotion make this a rendition that stands on its own.
Landis reigned as popular pianist and singer at the Café Pierre for over 20 years. A five-star pianist, she melds unique expressive harmonies of jazz and classical music. She colors her accompaniments with creative arrangements, shown in the Erroll Garner-style addendum to “Misty.” “Hello, Young Lovers” is sprightly in jazz waltz time, and special treats are the Argentine tangos that Landis performs with rhythm and ardor.
Both are fine musicians on their own and a matched pair together. Nino’s Tuscany is pure New York reminiscent of a 1940s film noirnoisy, busy, popular. Add Kathleen Landis and Frank Dain and you have a classic night on the town.
PETER LEAVY, Cabaret Scenes
In the parade of performers, Cabaret Scenes' own dashing editor-in-chief, Frank Dain, took off his editorial hat long enough to show off his very appealing baritone. Accompanied by long-time performance partner Kathleen Landis, his sensitive rendition of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster’s “A Certain Smile” was an affecting balance to some of the more driving numbers.
Show Biz Time Magazine
Frank Dain. An amazing and accomplished man at so many levels (artist, designer, cabaret star, writer, Editor-in-Chief of Cabaret Scenes) a superb singer with irresistible charisma, elegant finesse, substance, warmth and depth.
WARD MOREHOUSE III, Life at the Top - Inside New York's Grand Hotels
Cafe Pierre: Ms. Landis accompanied the evening's guest singer... Performing to a sold-out room, they created a intimate musical soiree reminiscent of the salon evenings of Mabel Mercer.
ROY SANDER, Back Stage
The theme of Frank Dain's new show at Don't Tell Mama, which was directed by Lisa Asher, is taking chances. But that isn't merely the theme, it's what Dain has done, for with this show he has stretched himself, and in so doing reached a new artistic level. When I reviewed him two years ago, I acknowledged his development to that point, but suggested that he still needed to give some interpretations a stronger point of view. Well, now there isn't a number in which he doesn't stake out a position. With Tom Waits's "Shiver Me Timbers," he projects warmth and decency, and his introductory patter gives the song additional resonance. With "Let Yourself Go," he does just that, becoming the embodiment of joy, and a medley of "I Believe" and "Cockeyed Optimist" builds ever higher in its degree of affirmation. (Superb arrangements throughout by musical director Rick Jensen.) Had I been asked, I would have advised against his doing Noel Coward's "Bar on the Piccola Marina" but I would have been wrong, for wisely eschewing a British accent, he makes it work on his own terms through witty phrasing and an ebullient delivery. And though he hasn't nailed itbut I've no doubt he willinteresting choices keep the too-often-done "Everybody Says Don't" fresh.
LAURIE LAWSON, Electronic Link Journey
Frank Dain's new show at Don't Tell Mama, Let Yourself Go! is about opening your mind, taking chances, changing bad habits, and moving on. His eclectic group of songs includes works from Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Noel Coward, Craig Carnelia, and Johnny Nash.
Dain is a great crooner with a throaty, reverberating voice. He makes you aware of that fact with the opening of his first song, "Why Walk When You Can Fly," which he performs a capella With dimples from ear to ear, he easily slips into a rapid-fire rendition of "I Have Confidence"/"Everybody Says Don't," a fun and lively "Let Yourself Go," and a cute presentation of "Last Day of Pompeii." But his ballads are the most impressivea beautiful "I Surrender," a passionate "Flight" by Craig Carnelia, an on-target I" Can See Clearly Now," and an inspirational and marvelous arrangement of "I Believe" and "A Cockeyed Optimist." He is accompanied by the talented Rick Jensen on piano and Dave Phillips on bass.
You're sure to find at least one song that speaks directly to you in Let Yourself Go! Frank Dain has an enthusiasm and intensity that's contagious.
J. RUDOLPH ABATE, The Free Press
With his sweet creamy baritone and Italian good looks, Frank Dain (short for Dionisio) rolled back the clock at Don't Tell Mama to a time when Hi-Fi LPs featured lushly scored ballads sung by dreamy-eyed crooners like Vic Damone and Julius LaRosa. Unabashedly romantic, with a romantic's penchant for optimism, he opened his set with Cy Coleman's "The Best Is Yet To Come" and encored with Kenny Loggins's "Wait A Little While," also a song of hopeful anticipation. If in between his heart got bruised--Don McLean's soulful Empty Chairs, segueing into a slowly dawning regret of I"t Never Entered My Mind," Johnny Mercer's "This Time the Dream's On Me" leading into a growingly desperate "I Cover the Waterfront"humor ("I Wanna Be Around"), philosophy (Billy Joel's "Summer, Highland Falls") and friendship (Rick Jensen's "In Passing Years") eased the ache. Never down for long, he closed with a quietly expanding "The Nearness of You": when a man like Mr. Dain loves, it must be proclaimed. As staged by Lisa Asher, lit by Bobby Kneeland, and performed by a trio of top musicians, this is the kind of show to wrap yourself up in or, better yet, to cuddle up with your honey tothat's how Mr. Dain's voice makes you feel.
ROY SANDER, Back Stage
Judging by his new show at Don't Tell Mama directed by Lisa Asher, singer Frank Dain has developed considerably as an artist since I first reviewed him three years ago. A pairing of Don McLean's rueful "Empty Chairs" and Rodgers and Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind" is emotionally centered, highly focused, beautifully sung, and boasts a lovely arrangement by musical director Rick Jensen. "Wouldn't You Like to Know" is good fun, and Jensen's sweetly touching "In Passing Years" is all one could wish for. In several other numbers, Dain sounds quite nice...his growth is most gratifying.
MARJORIE GUNNER, Italian Tribune News
Italian Frank Dain, at Don't Tell Mama on West 46th Street, is a budding Johnny Mathis, even to the slight tremor in his pure timbre. This swarthy, affable young man's rendition of "The Sweetest Sounds" would delight composer Richard Rodgers. A medley around "It Never Entered My Mind" smoothly entwines lyrics with parallel, blending sentiments. Dain has a lightheartedness that endears him to the lolling crown. He welcomes the night hours gently.
LAURIE LAWSON, Electronic Link Journey
Dain's show, directed by Lisa Asher, is a romantic grouping of songs from the 1930's to the present. Accompanied by musical director Rick Jensen on piano, Jack Bashkow on woodwinds, and Dan Martin on bass and guitar, Frank Dain is a Crooner Supreme. A delightful mix of Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra, he mesmerizes with his heartfelt renderings of love songs. It's a voice you want to hear coming out of your radio late at nightyou create the circumstances, Dain will provide the rest.
Frank Dain is proud to be Italian and has a penchant for ballads. That's fine; his breathless, throaty voice makes a ballad something special. Richard Rodgers' "The Sweetest Sounds" becomes just that under the loving care of Dain. Don McLean's "Empty Chairs" is a passionate lament against a background of soft music, and he is masterful with "I Cover The Waterfront" and "The Nearness of You." He can also handle the upbeat, from a bright and bouncy "Wouldn't You Like to Know" to a preciously vindictive "I Wanna Be Around."
STU HAMSTRA,Cabaret Hotline On-Line
One of the first cabaret shows I ever reviewed was several years ago after I had seen Frank Dain perform at Danny's Skylight Room. Frank was fairly new on the cabaret scene and I was impressed. I predicted that this young man would soon be among the top male vocalists in cabaret.
His shows over the past few years have proved me right, and his recent shows at Don't Tell Mama place him thisclose to achieving his potential. Frank has a wonderful voice, an easy going personality, and a charming attitude that many more recognized singers in cabaret lack.
Frank's opening song is "The Best Is Yet to Come," but I doubt things could get much better. The smooth, lush voice is best suited for the "heart-tugging" numbers, and many were sprinkled through the show. He sings them with such gusto, you sometimes forget that the songs were meant to break your heart.
Once again Rick Jensen's musical direction gave this performer a firm underpinning. Lisa Asher's direction is astounding in that one only notices it on reflection. The show remains truly Frank Dain.
STU HAMSTRA, Cabaret Hotline On-Line
On the 12th of November, I received an e-mail message from B. Douglas Swiszcz, with the following message (unedited):
"Just wanted to let you know that I saw Frank Dain's 4 PM performance at Don't Tell Mama this past Sunday (Nov. 10th)...and was totally blown away! What a voice...what a presence...Dain brought a "just bubbling under the surface" intensity to his delivery of a splendid program which included some interesting medleys. To juxtapose Don McLean's "Empty Chairs" with "It Never Entered My Mind" was a brilliant idea!
Dain had solid support from his pianist, bass player, and the woodwinds/reeds of Jack Bashkow (who once played for one of my favorite singers, Jane Olivor). Pianist/musical arranger Rick Jensen's "In Passing Years," which has appeared on the albums of singers like Nancy LaMott and Lee Lessack, was given an expressive reading by Dain. Right from the opening medley of "The Best Is Yet to Come"/"The Sweetest Sounds," Dain was sure to make eye contact with the individual members of the audience. Here is a handsome, talented gentleman who is a polished performer. Cabaret at it's best! I wish Mr. Dain a bright future...and a recording contract!"
I saw the show on the 15th, and I have to say to Mr. Swiszcz, whoever you are, that you have caught the spirit of the show on paper better than I could have ever done.
The first time I heard Mr. Dain sing was at a show at Danny's Skylight Room a few years ago. At that time I said that he had one of the finest voices in cabaret. I repeat that accolade this time around with one additional comment. Frank Dain brings a freshness and special flavor to his material that makes you lean forward in your seat so you don't miss a second of this exciting show.
Frank has surrounded himself with some talented musicians and Rick Jensen's arrangements and orchestrations were superb, befitting such a sparkling performer. And while I don't particularly enjoy the sound of a saxophone, there were times in this show where Jack Bashkow's haunting sounds were indispensable.