I normally work with backing tracks and I bring my own sound system to every gig - a top of the range Bose LS1 which is quick and convenient to set up and gives me great flexibility when it comes to rigging up in small spaces. The sound is fantastic and will fill an entire room with just one tower speaker. It looks nice too!
I bring a lot of props to my gigs too (lights, backdrops and even a bar table and bar stool) because I believe in creating the most authentic vibe possible and the atmosphere of the 'Lounge' jazz club. I have a bottle of Jack Daniels in honour of Frank Sinatra on display at every gig I do. The bottle stays unopened and I drink Apple Juice and Coca Cola only, so please don't buy me a drink if you see me (unless it's a nice cup of coffee) because I'm all catered for.
My average show, performed usually with backing tracks (the best quality I can get because I am passionate about getting the most true to life sound possible) lasts about three hours, during which I perform the entire classic repertoire of Sinatra and Dean Martin, including some more up to date arrangements of classic Swing Songs and ballads as sung by Michael Buble. I can cover Matt Monro, Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole as well. It takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to set up and soundcheck from arrival at most venues and roughly 45 minutes to pack up and get out of most venues I perform in. Obviously if the "get in" or "get out"of a venue presents challenges (ie travelling between floors, going up or down stairs or along corridors) this process can take longer.
I have been working as a professional full time singer since 2001 - so about sixteen years although I have been singing publicly (and privately!) since I was eighteen years old. The best gigs I have done include London's Savoy Hotel where I performed with The Enigma Orchestra (32 piece) which I sold out three years running for my Christmas Concert Special 'An Evening With Frank Sinatra'. I sold all the tickets and arranged and event-managed the whole thing from start to finish. It was absolutely exhausting but great fun!
I have performed at The Dorchester with David Foster and his Swing City Orchestra, and at Pizza On The Park with Toby Cruse and Manhattan Swing. I have worked extensively with eight piece and four piece bands across the UK and overseas and have performed at Nightclubs, Concert Halls and Weddings with the full band. There is nothing like the full fat live sound of a really professional seventeen piece big band grooving at your back and I have been lucky enough to work with some really GREAT musicians at these gigs, notably Matt Skelton and Jim Hart (Drums) Dave Foster (Bass) Dave Horniblow (Tenor Sax) and Steve Holness (Keyboards).
So...where did it all begin?
Well I'm an old fashioned guy. I've always had a thing about nostalgia and I guess being an old fashioned singer was all part of that. It all started one Sunday afternoon in 1974 after lunch in my parents kitchen when I switched on the TV and saw the opening credits to the film "Top Hat" starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
From the first moment I was spellbound, enchanted by the music, utterly captivated by the sets, the clothes, magnificent costumes and choreography, the style, the glamour and above all the songs and what they meant. Here was a world better than the one I lived in, a sweeter, more innocent world where the boy always got the girl when he courted her, sang to her and was charming enough! The world of Astaire and Rogers was a world of grace, beauty and romance. It was a 1930's world of chivalry and courtly love far removed from the world my contemporaries lived in, and a universe away from the music people I knew were listening to at the time or what was popular, music which I found frightening, ugly and crude. I feared the world of David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. For me that was a graceless world.
So my first ambition at aged fourteen was to become a tap dancer. I wasn’t very good either, though I longed to copy the elegance and grace of Astaire, but I had two left feet due to the fact mainly that from an early age I was constantly told I couldn't dance and had little or no sense of rhythm. In fact I only discovered I could sing at the age of eleven when my singing teacher made me stand up in front of the whole class and said to everyone "Listen to this boy. He actually has a real voice". From that moment I started taking piano lessons and discovered I had an ear for music. The first piece of music I ever learned was the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata which I learned and played completely by ear from memory. Despite efforts by my music teachers however I never learned to read a note of music. Then I wanted to be a tap dancer but I couldn't get that either. So life, school, and more life caught up with me instead, and I shelved my romantic dream.”
...Until four years later, when something big happened to me. One day my father gave me a record out of the blue. It was an old 45 RPM record with a yellow Reprise label. It bore the simple legend in black ink 'My Way'. I’d never heard of the song. I’d heard of Frank Sinatra of course. My mother hated him. She considered him “a bad singer”, and worse, “a nasty little man”. She liked Bing Crosby, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour and opera. Always opera. Try as I might I just couldn’t get on with opera or Piaf, though I did grow to like Aznavour.
My Mother also listened to jazz. But Trad Jazz. She loved it. I hated it and instantly preferred “Modern Jazz” or “Cool Jazz” as it was sometimes called. Cool Jazz got me straightaway. Instantly. Like Astaire had, but more strongly now. I suppose I was older, it was a hormone thing, seriously hooked now on the music that would propel me into manhood and the great wide world. And into this swirling mass of character formation suddenly came Sinatra, BANG!
In an instant it seemed, an epiphany, Frank gave total form, an actuality, to the music I wanted to make and the man I wanted to be but wasn’t and never had been, but wanted desperately to aspire to nonetheless... and at age eighteen that ambition became cast in gold when I actually came face to face with this new hero, Sinatra himself! It was outside after a concert at The Royal Festival Hall in September 1978.
Frank was in his limo, leaving. The interior was illuminated and the car stopped right in front of where I was standing. I saw him and then he saw me and suddenly smiled. A big bright Sinatra "Kid" megawatt smile. It blew me away. It was like being smiled at by the most expensive angel on earth. Then he was gone into the night.
After that I became fascinated by Sinatra, a fascination which remains to this day. I watched him on TV and practiced his songs in front of the mirror. Unlike my teenage peers I’d always resisted cigarettes, but now at nineteen I suddenly took up smoking with a vengeance, because Sinatra smoked. So did Bogart and Jack Hawkins, Niven, Burton, and all the other matinee idols I now wanted to copy in life. I aimed to become a halfway house between the American brashness and bravado of Sinatra and the deftly self effacing pure English class of Trevor Howard in ‘Brief Encounter’. But Sinatra… he was the compass mark, the star I pointed my ship at.
Sinatra represented the confident man I wasn’t and wanted to become, cool, assured and classy in a working class way. I wanted to emulate him, copy his accent and his phrasing, the way he takes a breath but you never see it, the way he can dance but never does, the way he holds a woman but doesn’t hug her, the way he cocks his shoulders, the way he wears a hat, tilts his head, purses his lips before a great line, the way his eyes go hard when he’s angry, but melt when he’s singing of a girl in Denver. Above all he sang songs for broken hearted lovers, unlike anyone else ever had done, and better than anyone had done or ever has since. He was a master of drama as well as music, and his ballad and saloon albums, which were always my favourites, made grieving for a lost or unrequited love seem manly. His way of singing made sense to me of the qualms and traumas of life and relationships as I grew older. He has always been with me through the years and now I wear his music every day like a comfortable suit. Frank Sinatra has been a very good friend to me.
Jack Valentine holds a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Aberdeen University and is widely experienced in the field of corporate selling and business. When not performing and singing himself, Jack also runs his own successful niche entertainments agency, Top Tributes UK, which helps other singers and artists like him get work. Married, he lives in Hextable, Kent and has two children. He lists his hobbies as history, reading, acting and drama. In his spare time he likes to visit art galleries, and lunch in expensive restaurants.