Sinatra in the Park: 11 June 2013 – New York City

June 11 marked Summerstage in Central Park’s annual City Parks Foundation Gala. This year’s benefit paid tribute to one of music’s biggest icons, Frank Sinatra. Tagged as Sinatra in the Park, the evening was a welcome mix of unique interpretations by an eclectic bill of musicians.

Kicking off the concert portion of the evening, which commenced with a VIP cocktail party and candlelit dinner, was house bandleader John Pizzarelli. With his Swing Seven, Pizzarelli eased the crowd into a slew of classic Sinatra cuts, beginning with vocalist Marc Cohn’s rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon”. From there, the format of the night was set, as guest artists came through to sing a song or two before giving way for the next act.

Folk singer Suzanne Vega shared a fine take on “Mack the Knife” before Joanne Osborne brought Marc Cohn back to the stage to perform a lovely duet of “Somethin’ Stupid”, which was a perfect transition into Pizzarelli’s story about how he toured with Sinatra 18 years ago. A fun sing-a-long interlude followed before the legendary Allen Toussaint was brought to the stage to take on the stage’s grand piano.

Being a fan of indie rock, perhaps the highlight of the night came when Ted Leo, Aimee Mann and Andrew Bird made it to the stage to tackle “Just One of Those Things”. With Leo and Mann handling vocal duties and Bird backing them with his violin, it was certainly the most unique cover of the night – that is, until Loudon Wainwright III took to the stage to perform a charismatic slice of “The Lady Is a Tramp”.

From this point on, the night took to new heights, particularly when Andrew Bird came back to the stage by himself, violin, whistles and all. His rendition of “Fall in Love Too Easily” came off incredibly sweet, as he plucked his violin in unison with John Pizzarelli on guitar. Judy Collins came to the stage immediately after to roaring applause, followed by Bettye LaVette.

To close out the evening, special guest John Legend performed two tracks. He opened with “It Was a Very Good Year”, a sentimental song that set the tone for his second number, “My Funny Valentine”. Displaying an incredible command of the stage, Legend was met with a standing ovation before the lights turned down on yet another stellar installment of Summerstage.