It is a ridiculously rainy night in Los Angeles giving it an almost East Coast/New York-like feel, on this, the first night of March: The only pair of fortnights known for coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb and tonight’s impending performance is the perfect fanfare to punctuate it all most proficiently, along with this comparatively ferocious California weather.
The Catalina Jazz club is awash in pink and purple light as the stage sits patiently like an all-too shy, yet beautiful wallflower in wait, for someone–anyone who is someone–of skill and substance to select, ascend and perform upon her! And once the first notes of Most’s opening song commence the ,merger will render itself “Almost like Being in Love”. But lo! This is not your regular and customary prom date (thought it might have been back in the 70s); for that predestined personage…? None other than Donny Most: In all his velvet-voiced, dapper, grey-suited glory. Heretofore best known for his class clownish and more-than-giddy portrayal of Ralph Malph on the classic sitcom Happy Days, Most’s retro-recent reinvention is an irrefutable force to be reckoned with!
The program will begin with an opener anchored by the lovely and lilting Sarah Spiegel. She is folksy, warm, and welcoming and sports a pale pink bejeweled dress that would be the envy of every elegant ingénue any auditorium or award show over.
As Mr. Most alights the stage, one cannot help but be arrested by his ever-so-dapper grey digs the color of velvet fog itself, to speak nothing of the fourteen piece brass section that sits to his left! The orchestra alone will roar and croon like March’s proverbial and predatory opening but it is Most, along with his rich and mellow voice who will temper and tame it to perfectly sonorous symmetry.
Songs will include that of the famous to the more obscure up to and including: “Lady is a Tramp”, “It had to be You”, “I’ve Got you Under my Skin”, and “Shake Rattle and Roll” rounded out by a most rousing rendition “Mack the Knife”. A tune which distinctly catches my attention, and one with which I was hardly familiar is entitled “What’s the Matter with You” a gentle and genuine piece of sincere sentimentality. (A stark contrast to your original expectation when the only thing you can think of after witnessing the song title alone is Joe Dolce’s 1981 one-hit-wonder, “Shaddap you Face”!)
About midway through the performance, Most will intone a heartfelt duet with guest singer Becky Martin. Their chemistry is so relaxed and natural, it almost seems as if they have been singing together for centuries. Much the same can be said for noted trumpet player Willie Murillo who flanks Most with the greatest of enthusiasm and perfection; along with gracing us with his own rendition of “Georgia” right before Ms. Martin’s, sophisticated solo to the tune of “Dream”.
At a certain point, in the evening, Most will sing the first few bars of a song but then stop as he realizes that different sides of his vast sea of musicians are working off two differing versions of sheet music. Unlike Mos(t)es, he must bring these waters back together. It is both humorous and endearing and the audience adores Most even more after this all-too-human of instances.
To say he is “like Buttah” is a little too sisterly, Striesandian for my sensibilities—well ANYONE’S really. But, not unlike most superior songsters the world over, there is a decided smoothness and seamlessness to his tone and demeanor whilst performing that begs a sensory reference and can only hearken allusions to both the above and the ever apt and unforgettable “Velvet Fog”. After this, all I can conjure in the realm of rich and savory foodstuffs along with anything foggy or smoky concerning his voice and stage presence alike, would have to be the most delicious of Cherry Vanilla pipe tobaccos my grandfather used to puff off his Calabash; a most favorite and vivid sense memory from childhood…
Close your eyes and you might think Most was Sinatra’s brother, or at the very least, protégé. To simply listen to him croon further you would surely assume you had been transported back to the 30s, 40s, and/or 50s minus the bother of any pesky and inconvenient wormholes; but an earworm or two might certainly figure into the mix!
Most’s next Los Angeles appearance will take place at Rockwell Table & Stage on April 9th.
For more information on Donny Most and his upcoming performances, please visit: