If there’s one thing Matt Dusk doesn’t like about Frank Sinatra, it’s how the American crooner makes everything look so easy.
Granted, that might be the only thing Dusk doesn’t like about how Sinatra sings, but when you’re trying to follow in an icon’s footsteps, those feelings are easy to understand.
“I hate him,” Dusk says with a laugh. “The jazz catalogue, specifically the jazz genre, comes through a culture of interpretation. Anybody who sings jazz or plays saxophone, you’re going to the same songs that Frank would have recorded. Again, that’s over 1,100 songs. The key, I think, is trying not to copy.”
Dusk doesn’t copy Sinatra, but he certainly was inspired by him. The multi-award-winning, platinum-selling artist has entertained fans around the world with his jazz and pop albums, but he’s returning to his roots when he performs at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre in Prince Albert this week with a tribute to the legendary singer.
“As a young teenage kid, some people look to rock bands, and other contemporary artists, but I saw this guy who was dressed up in a tuxedo, in his 40s, always smiling, looking sharp around good looking people, and as a young kid I was like, ‘I want to be cool like that guy,’” Dusk remembers. “From the image side of things, he always looked like he was having a good time. From the music side of it though, there were times where not only was it exciting, but he was also very romantic and he was also very accessible.”
Dusk credits the Christmas season for keeping Sinatra’s music in the public spotlight, especially among younger generations. He says those familiar but much-loved standards have inspired generations of music fans to dig deeper into Sinatra’s music, and almost everyone likes what they hear.
“Here’s this guy who can play the tough-guy, but then also can wear his heart on his sleeve, and I think that’s why many people were attracted to him,” he says. “I long for that classic retro cool.”
Prince Albert is one of several stops on Dusk’s current run. The Sinatra tour actually started back in March, and Dusk says it’s been a bit of a challenge to be on the road this long. However, he’s looking forward to performing in at the Rawlinson Centre, a stage he’d planned to hit months ago before the COVID lockdowns derailed his plans.
“I’ve been coming through (Saskatchewan) since, I think, 2004,” he says. “This, for me, feels like an eternity just because of the pandemic when everything shut down. I think this show might have been booked in 2019, which is a little odd.
“On the positive side, it’s so much better to actually be in a room and enjoy the music with other people,” he adds. “During the pandemic, we basically had to revert to a lens and looking into something that looks like HAL 9000 from (the film) 2001, and trying to have some emotion connecting with other music lovers.”
Dusk plans to sprinkle a few of his own songs into the show too, but says they “still sound very much like Sinatra songs.”
As for his favourite Sinatra song, Dusk says there are no surprises. It’s perhaps Sinatra’s most well-known hit, ‘My Way’.
“That song just seems to transcend through so many age brackets,” he says. “What did the pandemic teach us? Tomorrow may never come, right, so if they were given a situation where they knew they weren’t going to live too long or something is going to happen in their life, everybody, I believe, can still sing these words. I find the ultimate song where the entire room becomes one.”
Matt Dusk takes the stage at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Nov. 18. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online on the Rawlinson website, or at the box office.