Denzal Sinclaire, an almost Nat ‘King’ Cole evening Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

Busy night at HECFI: – comedian John Pinette on stage at the Great Hall; the Rascal Flatts @ Copps; and in the studio Theatre Denzal Sinclaire. We enthusiastically picked the latter having been impressed with his guest track on Karin Plato’s first album and his superb M.C. ing of the National Jazz Awards a few years back.
Since then, we’ve heard him perform on CBC as well as a personal interview which demonstrated his ability to speak without ‘ums’, “you knows”, or ‘like’s’… sports celebs – take note! Loved his singing, arranging and selections, but the show itself was a bit of a letdown.

Sinclaire, on-stage with Henderson & West

Sinclaire sings TO his audience, not WITH or FOR…no monologue, opinion or background rationale; certainly no insight into the man himself. Fortunately, during intermission we met some of his old Mississauga schoolmates who were able to offer color commentary (no pun intended). They were even able to clarify how his background gave him such prose-perfect French!
The show started with the soloist and his two sidemen bassist Devon Henderson and Eric West on drums coming on stage and immediately went into an a capella version of Amazing Grace. Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ was interestingly sung in an embellished version using a vocal major key, while his piano counterpoint was minor-keyed. He first exhibited his eclectic taste and talent by performing two movie themes: – ‘Nature Boy’ from the Dean Stockwell flick –“Boy with Green Hair” [1948], and from the 1950 movie ‘Captain Carey, USA’; “Mona Lisa”. The second work was a Grammy® winner for Nat Cole whose voice and styling are remarkably emulated by Sinclaire.
A radical interpretation of ‘The Honey Man’ from “Porgy and Bess” bore a strong semblance of arrangement and scrutiny as that often utilized by jazz interpreters Mark Eisenman and Phil Nimmons. But Sinclaire always manages to stamp his own distinct imprimatur on his selections. The audience was given the opportunity to see his facility with the electric guitar in Presley’s ‘Mystery Train’ number. The biggest kick was seeing & hearing him perform on a melodica. This $50.00 toy is a Rube Goldberg contraption that blends a mouth organ to a 37-note hand-held keyboard. There is an 18-inch tubed mouthpiece attached which makes the player look like he’s receiving oxygen during an ICU situation! The appearance may be humorous; but it’s certainly interesting.
The Hamilton Place‘s Studio Theatre is intimate and usually arranged cabaret-style. However, an audience of slightly more than one of our larger Passover Seders at curtain time was disappointing. Either the advance publicity was weak [we listed it!]; or knowledge of the guest’s sterile format deters ticket sales. The man is a fine musician; fabulous singer, and creative arranger; but needs work on his production. Lose the pea cap; face the audience while performing; and offer a little more personal conversation into his programme. Having another (perhaps local) group open the show would also vary the evening and increase the house.


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