At the Cocoanut Grove

Sammy Davis, Jr.

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At the Cocoanut Grove Review

by Lindsay Planer

Listeners are in for a treat, as Sammy Davis Jr. at the Cocoanut Grove is everything one could hope for and more. Live from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Davis holds court and heralds the end of an era in popular stage entertainment. After his unparalleled success on Broadway in Golden Boy, he was no longer relegated to nightclubs and Vegas showcases. At the Cocoanut Grove is a timepiece lauding the versatility of Davis as a nightclub entertainer. While most evident in the humor and spoken word monologues, the musical numbers and extended medleys are similarly geared toward a more mature sensibility. The dramatic qualities that Davis brings, coupled with his inimitable repartee with the audience, are uniformly gilded with an assuredness that wherever you have been in life, Sammy has been right there along for the ride. This "everyman" trait is likewise shared by Frank Sinatra and to a certain tragic extent, Judy Garland's life "on" as well as off the stage. The musical punctuation provided by Dick Stabile & His Orchestra is simply stunning -- particularly in their ability to vacillate between intimacy and immensity as they create open soundscapes behind Davis. They allow the artist enough room to utilize his immense talents while never overpowering him. Their collective contribution to "West Side Story Medley" is as much a highlight as is Davis's showstopping performance. This display is proof that he was more than ready for the Broadway stage. One key element in Davis' success as an entertainer was his uncanny aptitude for crossing into any given musical genre -- usually within a couple of introductory bars. The seemingly effortless flow between rock standards such as "Hound Dog" and the R&B of "What'd I Say" should not be discounted as novelty. Sammy Davis Jr. at the Cocoanut Grove harks back to the decidedly more genteel days when pre-British Invasion pop music was less about hairstyles and more about entertainment.

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