Crooner classics past and present in spotlight, courtesy of Ken Lavigne

Chemainus tenor prepares for upcoming concert tour of Let Me Be Frank!

When it comes to crooners, a number of tenor-voiced singers have made their presence known over the years.

From Michael Buble today, back to Harry Connick Jr. in the 80s and 90s, and back to Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

But the man who set the bar for all of them in that department, post baby boom, was ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

That’s a big reason why tenor Ken Lavigne is heading out on an Island tour this month — including a hometown show in Chemainus — with a new concert he calls Let Me Be Frank! Crooner Classics from Sinatra to Buble.

“I think it’s a chance to get in touch with that big, brassy Vegasy sound,” Lavigne said, on his way to record tracks for a studio version of the set that he hopes will be available by the first concert, April 26 at Colwood’s Church of the Advent.

“When you think of the crooner style, you think of Sinatra, just like when you think of operatic tenors you think of Pavarotti,” he said. “(Sinatra is) a high water mark for other people who came along later.”

Lavigne called on his “nerdy history buff” side for a moment and pointed out that in his early days, Sinatra was chasing the Bing Crosby sound, with his breezy, baritonal crooner style. “Sinatra started his career as a tenor, but over the years he started to get down into that baritone range,” he said, adding that years of smoking and drinking affected Sinatra’s voice.

Besides the crooner sound, Lavigne said, “there’s a sense of swagger as well. But Sinatra had his intimate and sensitive side as well. Either way, I’m looking forward to some of the vocal challenges that come along with it.”

Modern-day singers at the top of the ladder have a lot of pressure on them to perform at their peak every night, he noted, but there’s a certain appeal to the simple, pure sound created on record by vocalists like Sinatra.

“I am always astounded when I’m listening to these old recordings at how clean they are and how the artists were able to enunciate,” he said. Often striving to nail their part in one take, he added, “they knew they had to sing to a certain standard.”

Lavigne enjoys revisiting the classics for their interesting chord changes and memorable melodies, but also the sentimentality of theme that modern singers often don’t want to touch. “That’s why this music is still alive, it speaks something genuine.”

The Colwood concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Other shows in the series include Port Alberni (April 27, 7:30 p.m.), Campbell River (April 28, 2 p.m.), Sidney (May 4, 7:30 p.m.), Parksville (May 10, 7:30 p.m.) and Chemainus (May 11, 2 and 7:30 p.m.).

Tickets are available through the individual venues or you can find them online through kenlavigne.com, or by phone at 1-888-999-1110.

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