A musical journey

For one night only, Philly POPS will trade its classical sound for the tunes of some of the world’s most renowned pop icons.

On stage: Doing justice to Frank Sinatra classics like Fly Me to the Moon is a huge undertaking, but New York native Tony DeSare is more than capable. On March 29, he’ll lend his vocal stylings to The Philly POPS BIG Band when it comes to Parx Casino’s Xcite Center. Source: Tony DeSare

By Samantha Bambino

The Philly POPS is about to grace us with the setlist we never knew we needed.

For one night only, the orchestra will trade its classical sound for the tunes of some of the world’s most renowned pop culture icons — swingin’ greats like Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick Jr., rock and roll legends The Beatles, and of course, that little-known Artist Formerly Known as Prince. This is the newly created “The Philly POPS BIG Band Swings From Sinatra to Today” concert, which will hit Parx Casino’s Xcite Center on Thursday, March 29.

Now, it goes without saying that doing justice to classics like Fly Me to the Moon is a huge undertaking. If you mess up, Sinatra fans will let you know. But if anyone can pull it off, it’s Tony DeSare, a longtime POPS collaborator who will lend his smooth vocal stylings to the BIG Band when it comes to Parx this week.

To find out what audiences can expect during this one-of-a-kind performance, the Times chatted with New York native DeSare, who had a large hand in helping the POPS discover its big band potential.

“It’s a great art form that’s best heard live,” he explained. “It’s just a great wall of sound.”

For DeSare, much of his career has been about preserving the nostalgic feeling that the music of the ’50s inspired, while putting a modern-day spin on it. Since signing his first record deal in 2005, people have taken notice of his flawless ability to bring a fresh perspective to an old-school style.

Named Rising Star Male Vocalist by DownBeat Magazine, DeSare has performed at top-name venues like Carnegie Hall, boasts three top 10 Billboard jazz albums, and has been featured on The Today Show. Celebrity juggernaut George Takei also shared DeSare’s music on social media. Talk about bragging rights.

Despite DeSare’s ever-growing following, he said he always enjoys coming back to Philadelphia to lend his suave sound to the POPS, especially its BIG Band, which made its debut in 2017 during the city’s Welcome America July 4 celebration on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Led by principal trumpet Matt Gallagher, the BIG Band is composed of nearly 20 POPS musicians — five saxophones, five trumpets, four trombones, a drum set, piano, guitar and bass.

Each member was chosen for his or her passion for popular music and knack for playing everything from swing, ragtime and jazz in the style of the Count Basie Orchestra and Harry James Band to the Latin, funk and rock genres.

According to DeSare, artists like Sinatra and their “big band” vibes are timeless, but at the same time, we’re in 2018. Audiences no longer want a simple concert. They want entertainment, and that’s just what he’s promising for the Parx performance.

With the power of the POPS behind him, DeSare will take the crowd on a musical journey, effortlessly transitioning from jazzy Count Basie and Duke Ellington standards, to B.B. King blues, to chart-topping hits from Prince, the Beatles and Stevie Wonder. Throughout the evening, DeSare will be supported with showstopping solos by legendary POPS regulars Ron Kerber on alto sax and Randy Kapralick on trombone.

The jam-packed setlist is slated to include classics like Duke Ellington’s unforgettable Take the ‘A’ Train, Sinatra’s You Make Me Feel So Young and I’m Gonna Live Till I Die, as well as an original hit from DeSare, New Orleans Tango.

Basically, it’s a little bit of everything.

“It’s a nod to the past, but it’s also modern,” he said. ••

If you go…

“The Philly POPS BIG Band Swings From Sinatra to Today” will take place at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center, 2999 Street Road in Bensalem, on Thursday, March 29. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the concert beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at parxcasino.com/xcitecenter. For more on Tony DeSare, visit facebook.com/TDeSare. For more on The Philly POPS, visit phillypops.org