For fans of Frank Sinatra, May 14 will mark a solemn milestone: 25 years since the influential singer died at the age of 82.
For Dallas singer Ricki Derek, an entertaining mainstay of the DFW music scene, May 14 is memorable for that reason, as well as another. It’s the day he began performing in the spirit of Sinatra, putting his own unique spin on the Great American Songbook as he has done in countless venues since.
To mark both Sinatra’s passing and his own endurance in the music game, Derek is headlining “A Sinatra Celebration with Ricki Derek & His Orchestra,” a quartet of performances on Friday (an early and a late show) and Sunday (a matinee and a supper show) at Fort Worth’s Scat Jazz Lounge.
“My first performance as Ricki Derek was, basically, to the day of his death,” Derek said. “That’s always been this weird connection for me — like, you know, obviously not that significant, compared to him dying. But I’ve always — I don’t know, I’ve always felt like that.”
Indeed, Derek’s own style has flashes of Sinatra’s smooth, engaging manner, but much like Sinatra was a master of interpreting the material of others, so too does Derek put his own spin on the standards — a breezy, dynamic approach which belies just how much work it can be to make an evening of song seem effortless.
“I think the actual contribution that he made to modern music was pretty substantial,” Derek said. “I don’t feel it as much when he was young, but I certainly see that he brought a whole new thing [to music] as he got older.”
As for what audiences can expect at “A Sinatra Celebration,” which will feature the singer backed by a 24-piece orchestra, Derek said the mood will be more champagne than whiskey: light, bubbly, and fun.
“Not too much of the weepy stuff — more just to feel good,” Derek said of the song selection. “I do love the [Count] Basie era, when he was playing with [Sinatra], and Live at the Sands and stuff. I’m always keen on doing that stuff too because I’m a swinger, and I like swinging it. … If people are getting after it, and enjoying it, it makes me happy.”
Call it a legacy that would make Ol’ Blue Eyes proud.
Ricki Derek at Scat Jazz Lounge, Fort Worth. 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25-$150.
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.