If you like music from the original nightclub era — think Sinatra and Dean Martin — then Friday Night Live is a must-do.
The brainchild of vocalist Dave Damiani, Friday Night Live is set to enchant listeners, 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, at Ocean Resort Casino.
The 90-minute concert features the legendary Bobby Rydell, American Idol fan-favorite Haley Reinhart, actress/singer Renee Olstead and No Vacancy, a 17-piece orchestra that’s got brass and a whole lot of class.
“Friday Night Live celebrates the history of the 500 Club, which is the original nightclub,” explains Damiani. “I’ve got some of the best singers in the world and a 17-piece big band, which has some of the best musicians. And the band is on the stage with us. We’re doing something special, and we’re bringing back classic entertainment.”
Expect music from the American Songbook, considered the canon of pop and jazz standards from the early 20th century. In the setlist are songs like “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” by Irving Berlin. Damiani also throws in a few modern numbers by Amy Winehouse and Beyonce. The arrangements — even on the early songs from the 20th century — are fresh, new takes, Damiani says.
“I take the standards, and I bend them,” describes Damiani of his approach to the music. “I don’t want to change the music so much that people can’t recognize the song. I don’t want to make people work too hard. They want to hear the songs they know.”
Reinhart, who’s done several concerts with Damiani, is thrilled at the approach.
“I’m in love with what Dave is doing with No Vacancy,” says Reinhart, who just finished recording a single with Jeff Goldblum titled, “My Baby Just Cares for Me.”
“I’ve always been drawn to big band music. I feel this is a calling for me. I love jazz, and being able to do all of that with an awesome band is a lot of fun.”
Because Reinhart has sung with the band before, there’s little rehearsal time, unless it’s a new addition to the setlist. “I don’t know what I’m going to sing yet,” says Reinhart in early December. “There are some songs in our repertoire that we do, so we don’t rehearse those. A lot of it is spontaneous. Sometimes, it’s even better when we don’t rehearse.”
Like Reinhart, singer/actress Renee Olstead has performed with Damiani and No Vacancy a few times. The actress from “Still Standing” and “The Secret Life of the American Teen” loves coming to Atlantic City to sing with Damiani and company. She has a newly recorded number planned, “The Christmas Waltz.”
“It’s a treat to sing with a big band, and it’s great to listen to the other performers, who are wonderful,” Olmstead says.
Damiani is exceedingly proud of the musical talent he’s gathered for Friday Night Live. He emphasizes the “live” part of the concert.
There is no lip-synching. No pre-recorded tracks.
Everything is live, real, acoustic.
“A lot of people have never seen this before,” Damiani says. “The entire orchestra is on stage playing behind us. Live performances like ours captivate people.”
Memories and Green Book
Flash back to 1961. Bobby Rydell was 19 and the youngest performer at New York City’s Copacabana. The singer became close friends with Copacabana owner, Tony Vallelonga, otherwise known as Tony Lip.
Flash forward to 2017. Rydell got a call from Tony Lip’s son, Nick, telling him he was making a movie about his father and classical pianist Don Shirley. Nick wanted permission to have an actor portray Rydell in the movie, titled “Green Book,” which is being nominated for Best Picture.
Rydell was pleased and honored. Von Lewis got the part, and the first five minutes of the movie shows Lewis, as Rydell, singing “That Old Black Magic.”
Rydell hasn’t seen the movie, but says he’s heard “great things about it.” On Dec. 28, Rydell will meet Lewis and introduce him to “Green Book” fans and concert lovers at Friday Night Live.