San Diego Symphony's second night of the Masterworks season showcased the power of place and personality
Garrett Harris noon, Oct. 13
Sound description: Swanky jazz standards.
RIYL: Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Steve Poltz, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Kurt Elling
Inception: San Diego, 2000
Influences: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, John Coltrane, Bird, Eddie Jefferson, Kurt Elling, Charlie Parker, Harry Connick Jr., Ella Fitzgerald
David Patrone has been supporting himself as a singer/promoter ever since he left the Marines as a Camp Pendleton–based staff sergeant in 2000. He started as a Frank Sinatra salute playing for casinos, weddings, and corporate gigs.
“I never really knew much about Frank Sinatra as a kid,” says Patrone, whose decade in the United States Marine Corps (“I’m a former Marine aviation explosives technician”) was spent as a fan of classical and blues music. That is, until the day he was shopping at a record store and spotted the leader of the Rat Rack on the cover of Reprise’s Very Best of Frank Sinatra collection, tipping his hat toward Patrone.
“I thought, I should check this guy out. He’s got the right kind of hat, I’ve heard his name all my life, and I have ten bucks burning a hole in my pocket.” Thus began Patrone’s fascination with sophisticated Vegas-style jazz and lounge music.
“Sinatra did it all. His life, his music, an Oscar, eleven Grammys, two Golden Globes, uncountable other awards, his philanthropy, his ups, his downs, his pain, his love, his luck both good and bad, and his success tell an amazing story…you could learn a lot about living from Frank Sinatra. He climbed to the top and landed at the bottom and pulled it back up to the top again, several times, in global proportion.”
These days, Patrone (a nationally certified professional ski instructor) covers an even wider array of music than the Chairman of the Board himself, incorporating jazz, lounge, bebop, swing, blues, and even a pinch of comedy. “I’m sort of like a male version of Ella Fitzgerald. Besides Sinatra, I’ve been compared to the likes of Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Bublé, and Bobby Darin. I like to mix up genres and make up songs on the spot. I also like to crack jokes and tell stories in the middle of my performances. I feel like it’s a party, and I’m the host, so music isn’t my only bag.”
As a jazz vocalist, Patrone trades on nostalgia, while still managing to offer something new. Patrone's ensembles are reminiscent of a bygone era's swanky style, musical compositions that brought America through the 1930s through 1960s, played with a contemporary lilt and presented with modern panache. Patrone croons and delivers jazz standards with the distinctive swagger once found only in Frank Sinatra, and maybe a couple of other Rat Packers, grounded within a foundation that is wholly, legitimate jazz.
Patrone is such a local fixture that he can be seen performing several times each week around town. “I’ve rubbed elbows with San Diego Mayors, Chiefs of Police, sheriffs, sports stars, strippers, and famous vagrants like downtown’s Sign Guy and Tony the Pedicab Guy. I’ve partied with both felons and feds, and usually in my own house. I have a way of bringing all sorts of people together.”
As for brushes with fame, “I’m afraid I’d be sued if I told you all the stuff I’ve done with celebrities. I’ve gotten loaded with Paris Hilton, many Playboy playmates, Dennis Rodman, Carmen Electra, Ike Turner, Corey Feldman, and a bunch of other cats that I both can’t and don’t want to remember.”
In September 2009, Patrone won Best Jazz at the San Diego Music Awards. His holiday full-length Christmas Tidal (“Inspired by Alvin and the Chipmunks!”) is available at iTunes, Amazon, etc.
His $10,000 swing dance spectacular returned in January 2012, with $10,000 in cash awarded to three dance contest winners. The competition ran for eleven weeks, bringing in other bands from around the country. Around the same time, Patrone began splitting his residence between San Diego and Nevada.
“I live in Stateline, Nevada, near South Lake Tahoe. I like the Nevada political climate better. I don’t like what’s happening in California...there are an awful lot of taxes and regulations in California. If you book talent in California, you have to pay for a $50,000 bond just to get a license.”
Later in 2012, Patrone began singing as a bebop jazz vocalist alongside the talented dancers and singers who populate San Diego’s thriving burlesque/cabaret scene, which includes groups like Hell on Heels, Drop Dead Dames, and Keyhole Cabaret. “Most burlesque performers dance to canned music,” says Patrone. “I want to bring back the essence of burlesque, where you dance to a live band. I want to bring back the authenticity.”