Dave Damiani is all over A.C., energetically carrying out his mission to resurrect the days of old and bring the timeless music of the 500 Club back to town.
Damiani and the No Vacancy Orchestra, the Big Band he regularly performs with, kicked off their new summer’s series late last month, and will continue with performances featuring different guests like Haley Reinhart, Landau Murphy, Jr. and Graham Fenton every Friday and Saturday night throughout July.
Singer and actress Renee Olstead joins the band 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 7 and 8, for performances rich with style and swag at Dante Hall.
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“I’ll be singing a lot of good tunes, really solid songs,” says Olstead of the show. “The songs are really timeless pieces. When I look down at the setlist when I’m performing, I get excited for what’s coming next. Having an orchestra like that to bring it to life is so special.”
Only 28 years old, Olstead is one of a few young performers resurrecting jazz for a younger generation.
“I started singing when I was really, really young. I started in Texas, which is where I’m originally from, sort of the on the Opry circuit and doing competitions,” she says. “I found jazz when I was about 12. I saw the movie “Pleasantville,” and it was the first time I heard Etta James sing ‘At Last.’ She blew me away.”
“I went to my local library and I checked out an Etta James record and a Billie Holiday record after that. That’s really where I fell in love with jazz vocals.”
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Though performers like Olstead are few and far between, Damiani has a knack for finding the next generation of jazz singer, working with performers like Reinhart, another singer whose style is akin to Olstead’s.
“Sometimes I’m surprised when I meet other young people who focus on jazz, like Haley Reinhart who also performs with Dave and is an amazing vocalist,” Olstead says. “There aren’t a ton of us, but the ones that are out there are really talented. I definitely think they can rally support and bring jazz to a new audience.
“When jazz isn’t forced down someone’s throat and they’re allowed to find it for themselves, it’s better,” Osltead explains of young people connecting to the music of yesteryear. “If it’s presented as, ‘this is better than what you listen to on Top 40,’ then naturally people are going to resent it. There’s a thought of, ‘why is the music of your generation better than mine?’ If you just sort of let young people find their own way without any preconceived notions of what they’re supposed to think of it, I think that there’s really an opportunity for people to connect. It’s such emotional music, that I think those feelings are universal.”
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Olstead will take on some of that “emotional” music when she performs in Atlantic City. A busy actress, as well as a singer, Olstead has appeared on shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and the recent horror film “Unfriended.” She gives “equal love” to both aspects of her career, however, making time for her passion for performing with shows like Damiani’s. Expect plenty of classic jazz standards at the shows, as well as stories of musicians young and old, regaled by Damiani.
“Dave and the No Vacancy Orchestra are a perfect example of jazz musicians who inspire me,” Olstead says. “They’re reviving the best parts of days gone by, like the 500 Club. To hear Dave talk about it (the 500 Club), it’s so cool. Even if you don’t have a knowledge of that world, if you sit down with Dave and let him tell you the stories, I think everyone’s intrigued. It’s such a special era, and it’s fun to let people experience it one night at a time.
“Dave is fantastic,” she adds. “The whole crew of guys is amazing. Bijon Watson (the trumpeter of the No Vacancy Orchestra) is one of my favorites, so it’s always a pleasure to perform with him. They’re really keeping the music alive by bringing the experience of a Big Band to audiences. It’s entirely different from playing with a small group.”
Damiani encourages A.C. pride with city anthem
With new casinos, events and performers coming to A.C. in the not-so-distant future, America’s Playground seems to be on the upswing, cultivating a city pride that may have been absent before.
With this in mind, Dave Damiani and his best friend Alex Frank penned a Sinatra-esque anthem in the style of “New York, New York” called “It’s Pure A.C.” True to the Big-Band feel Damiani embodies during his live shows, the tune is a jazzy callback to A.C.’s days of old, when the 500 Club reigned supreme.
“It’s already being played on Sirius XM 71’s ‘Siriusly Sinatra’ and many other radio stations,” Damiani says. “It’s selection 9201 on the Irish Pub Jukebox.”
Listing off a number of different Atlantic City landmarks, like Resorts Casino and White House Sub Shop, “the song celebrates the nostalgia of A.C. and is the new anthem for the city,” Damiani says, adding “Mayor Don Guardian called it ‘The Official Song for Atlantic City.’”
The song can be found on iTunes, but keep an ear out for it on the radio, as well.