Andrew Walesch and His Orchestra: Sinatra—My Way

Andrew Walesch and His Orchestra

Sinatra—My Way

Musical Instrument Museum Music Theatre, Phoenix, AZ, January 12, 2023

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Andrew Walesch

It is not often that a cabaret artist can afford to sing with a nine-piece orchestra. One of the reasons Sinatra was so successful was his collaboration with Nelson Riddle. Those brassy swinging arrangements brought many American Songbook tunes to life, and in Sinatra—My Way, Andrew Walesch landed squarely in the middle of Sinatra’s greatest hits. As music director for the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), Walesch is responsible for booking over 300 shows a year that feature many genres of music. But his heart lies in cabaret and the American Songbook and his first love is singing it himself.

The evening’s introduction was made by Blaise Lantana, music director and weeknight jazz host at KJZZ, the Phoenix NPR affiliate. A jazz artist as well as broadcaster, she derives immense joy from discovering young talent and has clearly formed a great appreciation for Walesch and MIM. Walesch acknowledged her during his show as our “torch keeper of great music.”

Walesch opened with a high-energy medley of “Come Dance with Me” and “You Make Me Feel So Young.” He followed with the Rodgers and Hart classic, “The Lady is a Tramp” and then paid tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn with “Second Time Around” and “All the Way.” He recently recorded a new CD of Cole Porter songs and treated us to no less than five by the great master, including “What Is This Thing Called Love,” “From This Moment On,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Throughout the evening, Walesch bounced back and forth between playing the piano and fronting the band. He often sat to play the verse or a few chords to introduce a song and then switched back to his stage mic and took off. He is full of confidence, knows every lyric, and is at home on stage. His clear baritone has range, and he chose to go big on his songs, landing on high notes to finish. Even the great saloon song “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” had a little lilt in his rendition. Walesch did not try to imitate Sinatra and made the music his own. We did not learn a lot about him between songs; however he sweetly introduced his mother, who was visiting from his home state of Minnesota. (She had helped him pack his car and make the move to Arizona just one year ago.)

When Walesch was asked in a recent interview what he liked about Sinatra, he paused and said it was because he was the curator of so many great songs. I used to quote Sinatra on songwriters, “If it wasn’t for you guys, I’d still be pushing pencils back in Hoboken.” Walesch took us to Vegas with the Guys and Dolls song “Luck Be a Lady” (Frank Loesser) and sang one of my favorites “The Best Is Yet to Come” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh). He did not mention that that is the phrase on Sinatra’s tombstone. One highlight of the show came when he asked the audience for song suggestions. It’s a challenge is to hear what people shout out over each other. Once he heard three that he liked—“Sophisticated Lady,” “Laura,” and “Summer Wind”—he created a piano medley of the first two and then asked the band to find the chart for “Summer Wind.” Away they went, sightreading to the finish; it was impressive. Walesch showed great appreciation for his musicians throughout the evening and  allowed for plenty of solo moments. He often left the stage to give full focus to the band. At one point, he exited left and reappeared right which just added to the playfulness of the show.

Walesch saved the best for last. After the obligatory and well done “Theme from New York, New York,” he accompanied himself on “My Way” until the verse that begins “I’ve Loved.” That’s when he stood and transformed into an older, thoughtful Sinatra. All he needed was the fedora. After thanking the audience, MIM members, an attending board member, the staff, and the band, he let loose on “That’s Life,” his best number. He showed off his honkytonk piano skills, his ability to move, and his joy in being in the moment. The cliché “he left on a high note,” describes it. He received a standing ovation from the sold-out audience. Arizonans can catch his show on Mother’s Day when he makes his debut at The Nash, and he will be back at the MIM on May 20. For a full touring schedule visit his website

P.S. I must give kudos to the musicians of Phoenix. In a recent interview with Walesch (to be published in the March/April 2023 edition of Cabaret Scenes) I commented how surprised I was when I learned that the phenom pianist Nicole Pesce turned out to be the accompanist for the Anderson Brothers. She sells out her own shows, and here she was backing up touring headliners. Walesch had Dr. Clark Gibson, Education Director of The Nash, playing sax in the horn section of his orchestra, which speaks to the camaraderie and the quality of the Arizona music scene.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.